World’s Super Scientists – Green Morton, William Thomas

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A boon ‘par excellence” to combat the terror of surgery – Green Morton, William Thomas

Scientist William Morton was a pupil of Horace Wells; he practised dentistry in Boston.

The man Scientist William Morton was a genuine explorer of ‘anaesthesia’ (from the Greek words meaning ‘absence of sensation’), an indomitable Yankee of the 19th century.

Making patients unconscious for surgery, is a great achievement in the history of medical science.

On the suggestion of Dr. Charles Jackson, his teacher, Morton undertook experiments on animals giving ether to them. On one occasion he himself inhaled ether to the stage of unconsciousness. He extracted a tooth under ether anesthesia.

On October 16, 1846 Scientist William Morton gave a public demonstration of a tumour removed by Dr. Warren without any discomfort to the patient, after anesthetizing him with ether. October 16 is celebrated as ‘Anaesthesia Day’ or ‘Ether Day’ all over the world.

The anesthetic properties of chloroform were discovered by a Scotchman, Sir James Y. Simpson on Nov 4, 1847. Because of the pleasing sweet odour, quick induction, quicker recovery from anesthesia, it was preferred to ether.

The patient was asked to count, “1, 2, 3, 20, 21 40, 41, like that,” as the drops of chloroform were put on the nose mask. On an average, a patient used to get anesthetized in few minutes.
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But due to the fatal complication of cardiac arrest, it fell into disrepute. Sir James Simpson was an obstetrician.

Theologists from Church raised objection, saying that child birth was a part of the primeval curse on women”.

Simpson debated extensively and won the argument by quoting the second chapter of Genesis, – “before the Maker of the Universe took a rib from Adam for the creation of Eve, He caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam.”

The discovery of cocaine by Carl Koller in 1884 added a new dimension in anesthesiology.

The application of, or injection of cocaine, is termed as ‘local anesthesia’. When a region, say a hand or finger is anesthetized, it is called ‘regional anesthesia’.

As legend goes, August Bier, a German Surgeon injected cocaine into his own spinal canal; the lower half of the body below the level of the umbilicus became insensitive to pain. This technique is termed ‘spinal anesthesia’.

Newer drugs like halothane, an inhalation anesthetic are popular now-a-days.
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