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How significant was James Simpsons role in solving the problem of surgery during the 19th century?

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02 March 2010 How significant was James Simpson's role in solving the problem of surgery during the 19th century? During the 19th century, there were many attempts to perform surgery without there being any risk towards the patient. This usually meant that the surgeons had to overcome problems of pain, infection and blood loss which were the three main ways in which patients died during surgery. Many individuals discovered methods to make surgery safer. One of these men was a Scottish doctor, by the name of James Simpson, who discovered the anesthetic properties of chloroform and successfully introduced it for general medical use. Of course, there were other individuals who had used different varieties of anaesthetics before James Simpson. In 1799 Sir Humphrey Davy discovered laughing gas which reduced pain felt by patients. It was mostly used by dentists during teeth extractions, which caused excruciating pain. In 1846, J.R Lister used 'ether' as an anaesthetic so the patient would be unconscious during operation. However this was soon dismissed as it irritated the lungs and caused the patient to cough during the operation as well as the fact that ether is highly flammable. ...read more.


This scared the many surgeons into not using it. There were also other who opposed chloroform because they believed that easing the pain of childbirth, it would make it unnatural and was an act against God. In addition to this, whilst the patient is unconscious surgeons became more confident and attempt more complex operations allowing infections deeper into the body and causing more blood loss. This also contributed to the rise in number of deaths since the introduction of chloroform. Yet, James Simpson soon got many people to realise that his theory was accurate and it was soon accepted. When Queen Victoria used chloroform when delivering her eighth child in 1857, the public along with many other surgeons began using it as an anaesthetic and this soon became a part of surgical practise. However although James Simpson had already tried the anaesthetic on himself, it almost immediately became clear that there were very serious side effects associated with its use and it was known to cause death in a number of instances. From 1864, numerous studies were conducted in an attempt to determine whether chloroform affected the respiratory system or the circulatory system. ...read more.


He personally administered chloroform to Queen Victoria when she gave birth to the last two of her nine children, leading to wider public acceptance of obstetric anaesthesia. The fact that there were many other individuals who were able to discover other vital things prevents James Simpson from solely being responsible for solving the problems of surgery. John Snow also proves that James Simpson was not the first to come up with the idea of 'anaesthetics', and therefore cannot really be responsible for the discovery although he played a major role in coming across chloroform. In conclusion, I believe that James Simpson's role was not very significant in the attempts to solve the problems of surgery. This is because he was able to use other people's ideas, such as John Snow, to actually discover the anaesthetic. In addition to this, there were many other individuals and factors such as War and Technology that would have impacted surgery on a bigger scale than that of James Simpson's discovery of chloroform as an anaesthetic. Although we can see his dedication in proving that chloroform was a suitable anaesthetic we can also see that there was a lot of scope for other individuals to find an anaesthetic that may have proved to be less fatal. ?? ?? ?? ?? Thamanya Kugathasan ...read more.

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