Skip to main content
  • What Would Surgery Be Like Without Anesthesia?

    Dr. Crawford W. Long used ether to conduct the first painless operation on March 30, 1842. Susan Deaver, director of the Crawford W. Long Museum, Bill Custer, of Georgia State University, and Dan Rahn, an M.D. at Georgia Medical College, describe anesthesia and the scientific and technological advances in medicine.

    Support Materials


    1. How did the introduction of anesthesia change medicine? 
    2. What role did anesthesia play in the growth of modern hospitals?


    1. After viewing the reenactment of Dr. Long’s surgery on James Venable, write a newspaper story describing the event. Be sure to include a headline.


    anesthesia/anesthetic: anesthetics are materials used to numb all or part of a patient's body, making the patient unaware of the sensation of pain (Anesthesia is the practice of the use of anesthetics.)
    ether: a chemical sometimes used for anesthesia
    Hippocrates: Ancient Greek doctor (Doctors today take a "Hippocratic oath," which is traditionally--although inaccurately--assigned to him.)
    mesmerism: a sort of hypnosis used to put patients into a trance-like state
    patent: legal recognition of one's priority in developing an invention or technique granting control of the use of that invention or technique, and the monetary rewards therein, to the person holding the patent
    placebo effect: a situation wherein a patient imagines benefits from a treatment that actually has no benefits at all

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. How did the introduction of anesthesia change medicine? 
    Before anesthesia, patients undergoing painful treatment had to simply bear the experience and were thus wary to have such procedures done because they would hurt so bad. After anesthesia became commonly accepted, it became more accepted to have more invasive treatments done, leading to an increase in the health and quality of life of the general population.  
    2. What role did anethesia play in the growth of modern hospitals?
    Before less painful surgery could be performed, there were simply less surgeries. But as surgery became more commonplace, doctors realized that opening the body made it vulnerable to infection. Thus they needed a cleaner environment to practice their trade. As more surgeries were performed, and more of them in hospitals, hospitals became cleaner and more professional environments to practice medicine.

    Explore More