Early inhaler for ether anaesthesia, 1847-1848.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This inhaler consists of a glas vesel that contains ether-soaked sponges, connected to a facemask by tubing. The mouthpiece has inspiratory and expiratory valves. Air would be drawn through the bottle and over the sponges as the patient breathed in. It was made by Weis of London and is inscribed with the name 'Letheon', a name adopted for ether during W T Morton's unsuccesful attempts to conceal its identity and retain control of its use in the 1840s. The first succesful operation on a patient rendered unconscious by anaesthetic was carried out using ether in 1846. Ether was regarded as safe to use, but was slow to take its anaesthetic effect. It has been superseded by safer, more effective anaesthetics.