Henry Edmund Gaskin Boyle  (1875-1941)

Boyle was a pioneering anaesthetist. Born in Barbados; he qualified MRCS LRCP from St Bartholomew’s Hospital London. He is best remembered for the development of early anaesthetic machines. Even until recently, an anaesthesia machine for administering general anaesthesia would often be referred to as a “Boyle’s Machine” in honour of his contribution in this field. His design included cylinders for medical oxygen, nitrous oxide and a “Boyle’s Bottle” to vaporize diethyl ether. His other contribution to Anaesthesia included the Boyle-Davis gag, which is still used today during tonsillectomy operations.

Henry Boyles first post was at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. He then took up a position as an Anaesthetist at St Bartholomew's in 1902. In 1907 he published a book entitled Practical Anaesthetics. It is stated in the preface that it is a simple book and a practical test for those starting out in Anaesthetics.

It is a misunderstanding that Boyle actually invented the Anaesthetic machine, this is incorrect. On a visit to New York he was persuaded by James. T Gwathmey who was a reservist American Army officer, to try his machine for delivering gases. (Picture) It did provide an airtight mask with a pressure escape valve. After persuading the board of Governors at St Bart's, he imported two machines.

He was to eventually to modify the machine to make it more gas tight. It was given the name "Boyles Nitrous oxide Ether outfit"  since then the elders of the anaesthetic environment will still refer to this machine as a "Boyles Machine"




Ken True History of Surgery and Anaesthesia