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Credits: Science Museum

The maker, E R Squibb & Sons, sold ether as an anaesthetic to be inhaled and also as a stimulant and to relieve muscle spasms. Ether in this form can be injected or taken by mouth – in tiny quantities. Decades on, the bottle still contains 100 grams of ether. Cans of this type were also adapted by Paluel Joseph Flagg (1866-1970) of New York to be used as an emergency inhaler. Empty cans were filled with the required amount of ether and air holes were punched into the lid. A tube attached to the top could then be inserted into the patient’s mouth.

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    Glossary: bottle

    Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations

    Glossary: anaesthetic

    An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

    Glossary: ether

    A volatile liquid (resulting from the action of sulphuric acid upon alcohol) formerly used as an anaesthetic. Ether was usually inhaled.