July 31, 2016

History of Medicine: What was the earliest anesthetic?

Anesthesia masks - gauze and safety pins
I recently visited a small museum in rural Nebraska.  The frontier doctor who practiced in this town left his medical equipment to the museum.  The crude anesthesia masks, composed of a rigid stainless steel form covered with gauze and secured with safety pins (yes, safety pins - really?) was on display in a glass case.  Presumably these were used to administer ether, or perhaps chloroform.  At any rate, they, and the fact that my son is an anesthesiologist, piqued my interest in the history of anesthesia. So I wondered:  What was the earliest anesthetic?

Turns out, we don't really know when the first, let alone the first effective anesthetic, was administered. True, once the age of medicine came into it's own in the nineteenth century along with the invention of the scientific method, we have a pretty good idea of how it all evolved.  But what about long before that?

We know from ancient artifacts that opium was well known as early as 4000 BCE and that acupuncture was in use by the Chinese as early as 2250 BCE. Of course, wine and alcohol alone or mixed with various plants has been used to dull the awareness of pain since virtually the beginning of time.  Dioscoridas (AD 40-90), a Roman surgeon, used wine from the mandragora (mandrake) plant to induce a deep sleep.  He used the word "anesthesia" to describe this sleep.

It seems clear that none of these methods were sufficient to induce general anesthesia as we know it today.  Thus, surgery did not truly evolve as an efficacious treatment until the patient could be safely anesthetized and revived and dentistry only became tolerable when pain control was on offer (some folks would argue that a visit to the dentist is still not tolerable - but that's a story for another day).

References and additional reading:

May 3, 2016

Painting Accepted for the Minnesota Watercolor Society Spring Show

My painting Butterfly on Cone Flowers has been accepted into the Minnesota Watercolor Society Spring Show currently underway at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  The show runs until June 29, 2016. The painting features a batik technique using a wax resist with transparent watercolor.

December 12, 2015

Books Now Available in the Library

I am pleased to announce that all three of my books are now available through the Hennepin County Library System.  The books are shelved in the teen section of the Ridgedale Library in Minnetonka, Minnesota, but can be requested from any library anywhere.

Ridgedale Library, Minnetonka, Minnesota

July 30, 2015

Art Blog Combined with Author Blog

Welcome to my new combined website. My old artwork blog VintageArtStudios.com has now been combined with my author blog caroljlarson.com.  This will make it easier to search and find me by name whether interested in my art or my books or both!

December 6, 2014

Who Was Fredrika Bremer and Why Was a Minneapolis Elementary School Named For Her?

Fredrika Bremer

Fredrika Bremer (1801-1865) was a celebrated Swedish novelist often compared to Jane Austen, although her romantic novels are considered inferior to Miss Austen's today.  But what was her connection to Minnesota and why did an elementary school in Minneapolis bear her name?

In 1850, Fredrika visited the Scandinavian communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  She was quoted as saying: "What a glorious new Scandinavia might not Minnesota become!" Her description of the journey, chronicled in the book "Homes of the New World" published in London in 1853, is considered one of the most important first hand accounts of Minnesota while it was still a territory.

When she returned to Sweden, she became an advocate for women's rights.  She believed “that women should, like men and together with them, be allowed to study at the elementary schools and academies, in order to gain an opportunity of obtaining suitable employments and situations in the service of the state. . ."

The Bremer Building as it looks today

I don't know whether her Minnesota travel narratives, her novels, or her stance on education for women, or all three, was the ultimate reason a new elementary school built in 1887 in Minneapolis was named for her. Fredrika Bremer School was in service at 1214 Lowry Ave. N., for nearly 100 years.  The castle-like Romanesque Revival building still stands today as residential condominiums.

References and additional reading: