History Articles

Timeline anaesthesia

Click on the links to learn more about the history of anaesthesia, the origins of the College and the influence of the two World Wars.

You may also be interested in BBC Future - 'How agonising surgery paved the way for anaesthetics' featuring Prof William Harrop-Griffiths, RCoA Vice-President:


The College Bulletin has a regular column titled 'As we were...'. featuring short articles on a wide range of topics related to the history of the specialty. Recent copies of the Bulletin are available on the publications page of this website and a selection of articles appears below.

Alexander the Great and tracheotomy by Dr Karan Verma (published May 2021) looks at one of the oldest known surgical procedures, dating back to ancient Egypt and India

Origins of anaesthesia in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) by Prof Mike F M James (published January 2021) tracks the history of anaesthesia from the first recorded anaesthetic in 1878 in what is now Zimbabwe

Happy Ever After by Dr Janice Fazackerley (published November 2020) is a personal reflection on the changes observed over a long and (mostly) enjoyable career in anaesthesia  

Reflection on anaesthetists and epidemic diseases by Dr Alistair McKenzie (published September 2020) - John Snow, cholera and the spread of TB

Early Medical Engineering by Dr Adrian Padfield (published July 2020) traces the development of medical equipment using engineering expertise over the past hundred years

"Well, what an opportunity!" by Prof Tony Wildsmith  (published May 2020) provides a short biography of Prof Sir Keith Sykes, the leading and influential anaesthetist of the latter half of the twentieth century

Reflections by Dr David Bogod (published May 2020) is a personal view looking back over almost 40 years of anaesthetising patients

Intermittent pentothal in shocked battle casualties....despite the story of Pearl Harbor! by Prof Tony Wildsmith (published March 2020) - a reflection on the wartime activities of one of our foundation fellows, Aubrey Frederick (‘Bill’) Alsop

The Obstetric Flying Squad by Dr William F S Sellers (published January 2020) - childbirth in some of the country's remote areas during the twentieth century

 A milestone for the 'Lives' project by Prof Tony Wildsmith (published July 2019) covers the first stage of writing biographies for the College Fellows and signposts the way forward

Gardeners and herbalists: the first anaesthesiologists? by Dr David Wilkinson (published May 2019) looks at the use of plants worldwide for anaesthesia at various stages in history