BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ether and chloroform

by John Foster Brewster Flagg


In treating upon its history as a discovery, I would here observe, that I have no other interest or feeling in the matter, than what I believe to be a desire to elicit truth; making statements, or repeating such as may have reached me, with no further comment than the case seems absolutely to require; preferring that my readers should draw their deductions, and form conclusions from simple relation, rather than from party prejudice.

It is much to be regretted, that several candidates should have appeared simultaneously for the exclusive honour of having first induced anaesthesia by inhalation; when the part allotted to each in its promulgation, would have been sufficiently meritorious to rank him among the philanthropic of the age. It is equally humiliating that secrecy, caveats, and quackery, in various shapes, should ever have been connected with this subject; as they have all tended to bring into disrepute a valuable discovery. The consequent excitement required the utmost candour, the calm exercise of judgment, in short every ennobling trait, to meet the many objections that have been suggested through fear, jealousy, or other wrong motives.

Sufficient time has elapsed, and an amount of experience has been gathered throughout the civilized world, to place ether upon that basis which its most sanguine friends claimed for it from the first, as a safe instrument in the hands of prudent men, to secure the abolition of suffering in surgical operations.

Having, from time to time, furnished various articles upon the subject of ether, for the purpose of giving information relative to many of its peculiarities, as well as to remove deep-rooted prejudice, it has been my object to collect and embody in this work, most of those writings, and to arrange them, with cases cited, as may serve to illustrate its usefulness in general; and if possible, to gain for it that attention which the subject demands at the hands of the medical world.

It would seem officious (in the odious acceptation of the word) in me, to introduce a chapter in this work in relation to the use of ether in cases of parturition, were it not that I have been much importuned in this matter. The knowledge that it has been very extensively and happily used in midwifery all over Europe, is fast gaining ground in this country ; and I see no good reason why the ladies of America should be made any longer an exception to its benefits; and, what is more to the purpose, they are beginning to see the same thing. My opinion, advice, and directions, are daily sought in this department; and duties and responsibilities have been forced upon me, which at least should have been shared with me, if not altogether taken off my hands, by those engaged in its practice. This brief statement of facts must be my apology.

The great variety of constitutional habits, disease in its various conditions, mental organization, &c., wherein ether has been used simply for the purpose of annulling pain in the extraction of a tooth, and from which immediate and permanent benefits have been the result, having occupied much of my attention, as to its importance as a remedial agent, I have confined my remarks in this department to those mostly of a suggestive character; instancing such cases as I have had opportunities of seeing carried out, and giving them, with the hope that the good already derived may not end with their recital.

In conclusion, I beg here to acknowledge my high appreciation of that confidence manifested in me, and in the course I have pursued in this matter, by many of the professors in our medical schools, and other gentlemen of scientific attainments, who are also more desirous of adopting the use of any agent calculated to relieve human sufferings, than to allow themselves to be actuated by any other than prudent and philanthropic motives. Many, who have been deterred from the use of ether in their practice through timidity alone, are now yielding to its influence slowly but surely. The thanks of these gentlemen for my continued advocacy in the cause, are now more than compensating me for those injuries inflicted by former ungenerous and disrespectful remarks; in many instances, not stopping short of personal abuse. Others, again, are fast being led into the ranks of its advocates from necessity; finding the demand of their patients more urgent than their willingness to comply, and a correspondent depreciation in their practice as a consequence; a motive, as little creditable as that which led them to oppose it. This applies very particularly to the department of midwifery, and to a certain extent in dentistry; instances of which, I shall have occasion to advert to in another place.

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