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Robert Ellis (1822-1885), a British obstetric surgeon, developed this inhaler in the 1860s at a time when the safety of chloroform was in dispute – the substance had been linked to a number of deaths. In his inhaler, alcohol, ether and chloroform were vaporised to be used as a combined anaesthetic. Rubber tubing connects the brass chamber to a mouthpiece through which the vapours could be breathed. The Chloroform Committee of 1864 claimed that the use of a depressant (chloroform) could be counteracted by stimulants (ether and alcohol). Intended for use in surgery and childbirth, Ellis’s inhaler never gained mainstream use. This example was made by Savigny & Co.

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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: chloroform

    A liquid formerly used as a general anaesthetic although no longer used for this purpose as it causes liver damage and affects the heart rate. It is now used in low concentration to treat flatulence.

    Glossary: ether

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