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Hedley-type inhaler for ether anaesthesia, England, 1847-1867

Dr Hedley of Bedford, England patented this inhaler in 1847. It was used with ether anaesthetic. The two valves, made from ivory and porcelain, are used for inhaling and exhaling. The inhaler was simple and easy to use. An ether-soaked sponge would have been placed in the bottom of the bottle and heated so the vapours could be inhaled. As the inhaler was made of wood it could easily be kept warm, unlike its glass predecessors.

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    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: inhaler

    A device for breathing in a drug in order to deliver it to the airways or lungs.

    Glossary: ether

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