Inhalational anaesthesia was the first medical and scientific technique to become a legitimate means of pain relief. Its introduction to medicine in 1846 sparked one of the most intense public debates of the period. It challenged religious principles and at its center posed one of medicine's fundamental questions: risk versus benefit of medical intervention. This book explains how the introduction of anaesthesia intertwines with a wide variety of other nineteenth century medical and cultural issues: the growing elitism of surgery, the emerging professionalism of medicine, the popular and progressive culture of science and the secularization of society.


Stephanie Snow is a Wellcome Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester.

Return to Books on Snow site