book background

""John Snow, anæstesiologiens grundlægger [the founder of anaesthesiology].""

View this document as a PDF

(16 June 1958)Copenhagen: Novo Industri A/S, 16 June 1958

PDF from a photocopy provided by the National Library of Medicine (US).

This is a remarkable scholarly achievement. Gotfredsen produced an insightful overview of Snow's writings on inhalation anesthesia from a narrow range of sources available to him.

The biographical information he provides is drawn entirely from the memoir that Richardson included in On Chloroform, but the breakthrough year for new thinking about Snow's life did not come until 1994 when Ellis published the extant Case Books, with a biographical introduction.

I have wanted to translate Gotfredsen's essay since I came across it whilst doing research for Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine, but have yet to set aside the time to do a proper job of it. For now, I'll only post a working translation of the publisher's note and the opening paragraphs of the essay itself. [PVJ]

"John Snow, the world's first inhalation anaesthesia specialist, died a century ago on the 16th of June, 1858. We distribute this pamphlet in memory of the life and work of the father of anaesthesiology, as John Snow is justifiably known.

With best wishes,

Novo Industri A/S"

[Gotfredsen begins his essay with the following paragraph] "John Snow, the first physician to consider inhalation anaesthesia a medical specialty, died in London on 16 June 1858. Shortly after learning about the use of ether anaesthesia in 1846, he began an energetic study, practical as well as theoretical, of this new field. He undertook countless animal experiments in order to clarify the physiological effects of ether, and eventually chloroform; he devised apparatus that made the administration of narcotic substances as effective and safe as possible at the time; and he undertook research to discover new and even safer agents. In the twelve years before his death, Snow succeeded in establishing the foundation of a new medical specialty, anaesthesiology, a feat that won him wide-spread praise and recognition in his native land. On the continent, however, anaesthesia was administered by young residents, medical students, and nurses, a practice that eventually spread to England, as well. For example, Joseph Lister had no reservation about letting older students on monthly rotations administer chloroform. Nonetheless, some English advocates of Snow's model persevered, founding the Society of Anaesthetists in 1893, which the Royal Society of Medicine incorporated in 1908 as the Section of Anaesthetists."

"It is only in the last few decades that anaesthesiology has become recognized worldwide as a distinct medical specialty of considerable significance. John Snow is the father of this specialty. To mark the centenary since his death, this essay commemorates his resolve to transform anaesthesia from an empirical art to a scientific discipline."

bottom of book image