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  1. The history of anesthesiology is an interesting and complicated story of professionals seeking to understand the anesthetic state and to safely anesthetize patients.

  2. Shortly after the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia on October 16, 1846, by William Thomas Green Morton, the news spread across the world. Initially, anesthetics were administered based on written descriptions in the lay press.

  3. London physician John Snow worked out the physics of vaporization of volatile agents by observation of ether and chloroform and used this information to design vaporizers and anesthetic techniques that were safer for the patient.

  4. The first professional organization devoted to anesthesia was the London Society of Anaesthetists, founded on May 30, 1893. The first similar group in the United States was the Long Island Society organized by Adolph Frederick Erdmann on October 6, 1905. This eventually became the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

  5. Francis Hoffer McMechan organized professional anesthesia in 1912 by helping to create the first national organization, the Associated Anesthetists of America, and went on to found several national and international organizations, of which the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) remains active. He was the founding editor of the first journal in the world devoted to the specialty, Current Researches in Anesthesia and Analgesia, which is currently published as Anesthesia and Analgesia.

  6. Ralph Waters is credited with founding the first academic department of anesthesia at the University of Wisconsin in 1927. Much of the current residency structure comes from this seminal department. This helped establish the specialty on an equal footing with other medical specialties.

  7. John Lundy at the Mayo Clinic organized the Anaesthetists Travel Club, whose members were the leading young anesthetists of the United States and Canada. These individuals helped create the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), which defined what it meant to be an anesthesiologist in the United States.

  8. The need for specialists in World War II exposed a large number of young physicians and nurses to anesthetic practice. After the war, physicians returned and helped create the tremendous growth of anesthesiology in the 1950s-1960s, while the nurses greatly expanded nurse anesthesia.

  9. In the mid-1950s, the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA) was formed, which culminated from a dream that began in the late 1930s. The WFSA made it possible for nations with a long tradition of physician specialization in anesthesia to help train practitioners and introduce the specialty to new countries.

  10. In the 1980s, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) and the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) were created. They are additional examples of the professionalism demonstrated by physician leaders throughout anesthesiology’s history. These organizations work to create a safe anesthetic environment and to support educational and research efforts in the specialty.


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