The Pioneers



Hans G Epstein 1909-2002

Hans Epstein (always known in College and his Department as "Ep" or "Eppy", was born in Berlin and educated in Switzerland and Bavaria, returning to Berlin where he received a doctorate in physics summa cum laude in 1934.

As Jews in Germany were undergoing severe harassment and brutality, he realised that it would be better for him and his family to move to England. It was in Oxford that Epstein began specialising in research and development in the field of anaesthesia.

He was employed at the Clarendon Laboratory. Sir Robert Macintosh who was keen to develop new forms of ether inhaler, ether being the principle anaesthetic of the day.

With support from Lord Nuffield, an academic department of Anaesthetics was established in Oxford, the first in the country. Its Director was interested in developing new forms of inhaler for delivering ether, and Epstein began work on this in the Clarendon. 

The need became urgent for inhalers suitable for use under field conditions, in 1939 when war with Germany broke out.

Hans Epstein because he was German by birth, was restricted in what he could do but  helped to design a simple, portable, and effective ether vaporiser, known as the Oxford inhaler. These, were manufactured in thousands and used throughout the world.

Through the 1950s and 1960s Epstein continued his research and development of anaesthesia inhalers, building himself a global reputation as a leading expert in this field.

His inhalers harnessed the latest anaesthesia agents, such as Halothane: an example was the Oxford Miniature Vaporizer (OMV), a version of which found use during the Falklands conflict in 1982 Version 50, this particular setup was supplemented by the use of Ivan Houghton's design of tubing using and Laerdal Resusci Bag, his own valve (Hautonox) and a sanders T piece to supplement the oxygen.

In his retirement he was able to pursue many outdoor interests including study of wildlife, mountains and cycling. He is survived by his wife, Vera, and two sons.327





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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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