Bulletin of anesthesia history

High times, fair maidens, and sweet air: romantic interludes in the life of Dr. Crawford Long.

PMID 25345268


How does one's knowledge of pain affect the physical "being" of pain? Following German idealist philosophy, unconsciousness to such knowledge would seemingly abdicate the very nature of pain. "Nothing exists but thoughts!--the universe is composed of impressions, ideas, pleasures, and pains!" Humphry Davy exclaimed upon leaping out of the laughing gas chamber where he had breathed some 100 quarts of nitrous oxide. The discovery of nitrous oxide gas as an agent of transubstantiation led to the discovery of the medical science of anesthesia by a genius, but backcountry physician, Dr. Crawford Long in 1841. This paper presupposes that the Romantically introspective effects of diethyl ether inhalation led Dr. Long to yearn melancholically for his lover and underestimate his momentous discovery, as the physical abdication of pain could not quench the doctor's subliminal anguish. Within is an account of the arcane nature of one of medicine and history's most significant discoveries, one wrought out of intelligence and the wondrous curiosity of the Romantic period.