Dr Stephanie Snow, a Senior Research Associate at the Faculty, has had her successful book Blessed Days of Anaesthesia: How Anaesthetics Changed the World opened up to a whole new audience following its translation into Japanese. The book, which recounts the early days of anaesthesia, was highly commended by the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Awards in 2009. The translated version has been published by Medical Sciences International Ltd, Tokyo.
From accounts of Humphry Davy’s early experiments with nitrous oxide, to details of the dramas that drove the discovery of ether anaesthesia, the book unravels some of the key moments in medical history. And Dr Snow hasn’t shied away from the more grisly stories that such a history is bound to contain. Frequent deaths and notorious murders are well accounted for on the pages of this captivating work.
Interwoven throughout these stories, a fascinating social change is revealed. Anaesthesia caused the Victorians to rethink concepts of pain and sexuality and the links between mind and body. A profound change in attitudes began to be realised as the view that physical suffering could and should be prevented permeated throughout society. This was most telling in prisons and school where pain had long been used as a method of social control. Dr Snow’s book details how the discovery of anaesthesia created a legacy that was not only scientific and medicinal, but also extremely compassionate.