Nitrous Oxide

 

 

Humphry Davy was a British chemist who studied the effects of nitrous oxide on the human body in 1800.  Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a weak anaesthetic that can knock out a patient safely when mixed with oxygen.  Davy tested the gas on himself for 7 straight minutes without any negative reprecussions and decided to continue his research, curious in the applications of such a substance.  Davy's work attracted lots of scientific attention but no one was able to find the importance of nitrous gas.  Davy hypothesized the use of laughing gas: "seemed capable of destroying pain and might probably be used with advantage in surgical operations."  Unfortunately, Davy's discovery was too advanced for his time. 


 

 

Nitrous oxide did not die with Humphry Davy however.  Horace Wells, a dentists, also utilized nitrous oxide before the extraction of a tooth, much like Morton with ether.  However, Wells was extremely unsuccessful because the anaesthesia failed at one of his demonstrations.  Therefore, nitrous oxide and Horace Wells were both discredited.  Wells, depressed that his implementation of nitrous oxide did not work, committed suicide only a few years later.


 

 

 

 Here a device, similar to an oxygen mask, was used to introduce nitrous oxide directly to the patient.  With such an apparatus patients would be unconcious in only minutes and surgery could get underway.