Anaesthetic inhalers, 1848-1920.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Two inhalers for administering anaesthetic: Murphy's inhaler (left) for chloroform anaesthesia in midwifery, made by Coxeter, London between 1848 and 1894, and an inhaler with adjustable air/ether ratio for ether anaesthesia, made between 1860 and 1920. The first succesful operation on a patient rendered unconscious by anaesthetic was carried out using ether in 1846. Ether was regarded as being safe to use, but it was slow to take its anaesthetic effect. Chloroform was first used as an anaesthetic in 1847. Although quicker acting than ether, chloroform's poisonous nature meant it was a more dangerous substance to use. Today both have been superseded by safer, more effective anaesthetics.