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Snow-type chloroform inhaler, London, England, 1848-1870

John Snow (1813-58) was the first specialist anaesthetist in Britain. He originally described his inhaler in 1847. The profile of both Snow and anaesthesia received a big boost when Queen Victoria was given chloroform during the birth of her son Leopold in 1853. The anaesthetist on that occasion was John Snow. In this inhaler, one canister was used for cold water and the other for chloroform. The brass face mask lined with velvet (shown here from a different example) was attached to the end of the flexible tube so the patient could inhale the anaesthetic vapours. The inhaler is shown here with a face mask (A625286).

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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.