Henry Edmund Gaskin Boyle  (1875-1941)

Henry Boyle was a pioneering anaesthetist; He was born on 2 April 1875 at Bannatyne, Barbados, the only child of Henry Eudolphus Boyle and Elizabeth.

He was educated at Harrison College, Barbados, and then moved to London and studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital.

As a student, he was president of the Abernethian Society, he qualified MRCS LRCP from St Bart's Hospital.

Known as "Cocky" to his friends, he is best remembered for the development of early anaesthetic machines. Always more interested in the practical rather than the purely scientific side of his speciality, he was quick to see how each new advance could best be put to practical service.

At first, he used the American Gwathmey machine, but he found that they kept breaking down. He went about designing his own version of the machine and his continuous flow machines included cylinders for the gases.

It has been suggested that Boyle borrowed drawings from Geoffrey Marshall another pioneer of anaesthetic machines for the design of the Boyle anaesthetic machine. 209

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 not only cylinders for medical oxygen, but 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.

He died at the age of 66, at the end of a long and particularly distressing illness.

I always wondered why the controls were on the left on today’s machines it is because Boyle was left handed, as a result, anaesthetic machines available all over the world are designed with controls and switches meant for a left-handed user.210




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The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia was created as a free resource to educate Students or indeed anyone wishing to understand the beginings of surgery and Anaesthesia.

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