Constructing the Chamber of Sleep: Emotions and Early Anaesthesia

Thursday April 15th 2021

Constructing the Chamber of Sleep: Emotions and Early Anaesthesia
Robert Liston operating. Credit: Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0)

This is a joint talk between the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre and the Surgery and Emotion project. It is the fourth in a series commemorating the 75th year of Anaesthesia, the journal of the Association of Anaesthetists.

In his talk entitled "Constructing the Chamber of Sleep: Emotions and Early Anaesthesia", Dr Michael Brown seeks to challenge the notion that the advent of anaesthesia in 1846 brought about a sudden transformation in surgical practice and that the once writhing, screaming patient of the pre-anaesthetic era was rendered completely silent by the administration of ether. Rather, he reveals that the early application of anaesthesia elicited a range of strange phenomena from the patient, including flinching, talking and even singing, and that the image of anaesthesia as a form of painless oblivion was one that had to be crafted by Victorian surgeons.

We will then hear from Dr Douglas Justins who reflects on the development of pain management. A greater understanding of the neurobiology of pain combined with major clinical advances improved the management of all forms of pain. From the 1965 ‘Gate Theory of Pain’, to an article published in Anaesthesia in 1976 describing the measurement of pain, there were important milestones in the development of pain management services.

Joining Details

Date: Thursday 15th April 2020

Time: 6:00pm to 7:00pm 

Place: This session will be held on Zoom. You will be emailed the joining details the day before the event.

Tickets are free. Please follow this link to the Association of Anaesthetists's Eventbrite page to place your order. 

About the speakers

Dr Douglas Justins (Anaesthesia Heritage Centre)

Douglas is a retired Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, St Thomas’ Hospital, London. He currently holds the role of Chairman of the Senior Fellows and Members Club, Royal College of Anaesthetists and is a volunteer with the Association of Anaesthetists Heritage Centre. Dr Justins is also the Honorary Medical Officer for the cross country running club, Thames Hare & Hounds.

Dr Justins’ previous roles have included, Vice President at the Royal College of Anaesthetists, Founding Dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine at the Royal College of Anaesthetists, President of the British Pain Society and Trustee and Treasurer of NCEPOD.

He is the co-author of the book, First Aid at Sea, (Justins and Berry), 8th edition in preparation.

Dr Michael Brown (Principal Investigator on the Surgery & Emotion project)

Michael is Reader in History in the Department of Humanities at the University of Roehampton and Principal Investigator on the Surgery & Emotion project. He has written extensively on the history of medical identity, performance and self-representation as well as gender, war and militarism in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He is the author of the book, Performing Medicine: Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850 and co-editor of Martial Masculinities: Experiencing and Imagining the Military in the Long Nineteenth Century. He is currently completing a book on emotion and the cultures of Romantic surgery for Cambridge University Press.

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