The Age of Science
The idea of pain relief and eventual anaesthesia via inhalation really started when the word gas was first used by Jan Baptist Van Helmont (1579-1644) Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
Jan Baptist Van Helmont (1579-1644)
Jan Baptista van Helmont was born of a noble family in Brussels in January 1580. Jan Van Helmont is regarded as the founder of Pneumatic chemistry. Some scholars have claimed that the word 'gas' is derived either from the Greek word 'chaos' or from the Flemish word 'gaesen' (ghosts). As these concepts were described by Paracelcus prior to the work of Van Helmont, these scholars generally try to diminish the originality of Van Helmont's work in favour of that of Paracelcus.208
He delved in to the area of mysticism he studied aspects of magic and mystical philosophy in courses given by Jesuit teachers at their recently founded Louvain school, and then he turned to the study of such mystical spiritual writers as Thomas à Kempis. Dissatisfied with all these studies, he turned to medicine. In his new undertaking he was inspired by religious zeal and by the desire to be of service to society. 138
Van Helmont found support for his elemental water theory in the account of creation given in Genesis. To account for the diversity of material forms derived from the primal water, Van Helmont postulated a series of directing and generating principles which he called ferments or seminal principles. They were links between the material world and the spiritual world and as such had a key place in Van Helmont's natural philosophy.
Van Helmont described the production of a gas. After burning 62 pounds of charcoal, only 1 pound of ashes remained. He assumed the other 61 pounds had changed into a wild spirit or gas (he called it gas sylvestre) that could not be contained in a vessel. He obtained the same gas by burning organic matter and alcohol and by fermenting wine and beer.
Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
Robert Boyle was one of the most significant of British scientists. More than anyone else, he invented the modern experimental method.
His profuse published findings on pneumatics, chemistry and many other scientific topics were widely influential in providing empirical support for a mechanical view of nature.
He also wrote books on the philosophical aspects of science, and on religion. He was a founding member of the Royal Society, and was the most senior of that body in its formative years.
Robert Boyle is familiar to Anaesthetics because of his Gas laws; it was he who also synthesized ether with a lesser-known scientist by the name of Mayow who defined nitro-aerial spirit (oxygen) (1674).
The writings of Robert Boyle advance the thesis that Christianity in seventeenth- century England advocated and facilitated scientific development.
As a scientist and theologian, he rejected the popular view that the Bible was a scientific textbook and yet believed in the absolute harmony between scientific statements in the Bible and experimental science.
Conflicts between the two were explained as either a mistake in science or an incorrect interpretation of Scripture. 139
Benjamin Pugh (1715–1798)
Benjamin Pugh, one of ten children, was born in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire in 1715. His uncle was a local surgeon and may have supervised Pugh's early training. He became an apothecary and surgeon.
In 1754 it is recorded by Pugh then an obstetrician of Chelmsford, Essex that he administered oxygen and described the first endotracheal tube. Known at the time as Pugh's pipe it was nothing more than a pipe that bellows could be attached too to inflate the lungs.
It was made of a wire spring, 10 inches long, covered with thin soft leather, and was to be introduced into the infant's mouth "as far as the larynx. 140
Some believe it not to be a true intubation as they understand he did not insert it past the Larynx.
He also speaks of mouth to mouth resuscitation as in his Treatise on Midwifery he states:
"If the child does not breathe immediately upon Delivery, which sometimes it will not, especially when it has taken Air in the womb; wipe its Mouth, and press your Mouth to the Child's, at the same time pinching the Nose with your Thumb and Finger, to prevent the Air escaping; inflate the lungs; rubbing it before the Fire; by which Method I have saved many."
"Science cannot resolve moral conflicts, but it can help to more accurately frame the debates around these conflicts." 141