John Snow 1813-1858
John Snow was born in 1813, at York and was the son of a farmer.
John Snow was by all accounts quite introvert but very studious an he is recognized as the first true anaesthetist. Chloroform use spread rapidly and Anaesthesia got royal approval when in 1853 Queen Victoria was administered chloroform by John Snow, at the birth of one of her children Prince Leopold in April 1853.
John Snow was said to have first observed the administration of Ether by James Robinson. This brilliant but rather shy individual was observing at that time the “Victory over Pain” and unbeknown to him at the time, he would be its first master.
John Snows had a reputation already it was such that he has even had a public house named after him. This was for his public health work. (Public health at this time was a big issue; disease in London was rife at the time. Even Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Albert died of typhus.)
He was a great experimenter and at one time performed a tracheotomy on a rabbit and passed a tube into the rabbit’s trachea and then anaesthetising the animal with chloroform. This was probably the first endotracheal anaesthetic performed.
John Snow accelerated the acceptance of anaesthesia by publishing two books on the subject; "On the inhalation of the vapour of Ether" and "Chloroform and other anaesthetics"
Chloroform however was not as safe as ether and required more expertise to deliver; several unnecessary deaths were reported from chloroform in the early years as medical students, nurses and the occasional member of the public were pressed into administering the agent.
In 1848 a young girl Hannah Greener, aged 15, was the first patient to die while under chloroform anaesthesia.
She was having an avulsion of her toenail.48
Some have commented on her death as “she died like a shot rabbit” 4 It has been suggested she died of anaphylaxis due to the drug.
It was as a result of these deaths that Britain required physicians to administer the drug whereas in the United States of America and Europe a nurse could administer Ether under supervision.
John Snow can be accused of making the art of anaesthesia a science.
This intelligent physician was taken from this world prematurely and was laid to rest at Brompton cemetery.
The Quote below is how the established public health committee got it all wrong as eventually Snow was proved right on Cholera.
"There is, in our view, an entire failure of proof that the occurrence of any one case could be clearly and unambiguously assigned to water". The reviewer later concludes, "Notwithstanding our opinion that Dr Snow has failed in proving that cholera is communicated in the mode in which he supposes it to be, he deserves the thanks of the profession for endeavouring to solve the mystery. It is only by close analysis of facts and the publication of new views, that we can hope to arrive at the truth" 200