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Anaesthetic apparatus, England, 1880-1910

Inhaling anaesthetics was the preferred way of numbing a patient before painful surgical operations. Joseph Thomas Clover (1825-82) used both nitrous oxide and ether to anaesthetise his patients. He used nitrous oxide first as it was a more pleasant experience for the patient and then prolonged the anaesthetic with ether. The patient inhaled the vapours through the face mask. Clover claimed that his apparatus, invented between 1874 and 1876, quickly anaesthetised patients, was good value for money, and could control the dosage of anaesthetic easily.

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    Glossary: nitrous oxide

    Nitrogen oxide. A colourless, odourless gas that is used as an anaesthetic and analgesic. High concentrations cause a narcotic effect and may replace oxygen, causing death by asphyxia. It is also used as a food aerosol in the preparation of whipping cream.

    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.