Obituary - Dr Lucien E Morris

Dr Lucien E Morris

1914 to 2011

Lucien E Morris, academic anesthesiologist and inventor of the Copper Kettle vaporizer died peacefully at his home in Seattle, Washington on November 15, 2011, two weeks before his 97th birthday. He was one of the last remaining Aqualumni, the doctors who trained with Dr Ralph Waters at the University of Wisconsin. Certainly his life epitomised Waters’ admonition 'to teach doctors to go out and teach other doctors' the medical specialty of anesthesiology.

Dr Morris was born 30 November 1914. His father, a biochemistry professor, died of tuberculosis when Lucien was eleven leaving the family in difficult straits through the Great Depression. Lucien attended Oberlin College, graduating in 1936 in chemistry. He commenced graduate studies in biochemistry, before electing to obtain a medical degree at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He married Jean Pinder in 1942; this resulted in what Lucien would count as his life's most successful endeavor lasting more than 69 years.

Lucien's internship was at Grasslands Hospital in New York followed by a residency at St Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin that was interrupted by a call to military service. Prior to leaving Madison, having decided to specialise in anaesthesia, he met with Dr Waters who promised him a residency position after the war. Lt Morris arrived in England in July 1944 and was made Chief of Anaesthesia of the 103rd General Hospital where he personally provided more than 700 anaesthetics. He established lifelong British connections when in March 1945 he attended a review course in Oxford taught by the faculty of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthesia.

Residency in Madison after the war provided a stimulating environment to learn under the mentorship of 'the Chief. As a co-investigator in the chloroform centennial study trying to deliver a known amount of vapour, Lucien complained within earshot of Waters, 'Anyone ought to be able to make a better vaporizer than this!' A few weeks later a single-sentence postcard arrived from the vacationing Waters, 'Has Morris made a new vaporizer yet?' The result of that challenge was the Copper Kettle, a precision device that was the industry standard for 25 years.

Dr Morris began his academic career at the University of Wisconsin and then moved to the University of Iowa (1949–1954), the University of Washington (1954–1960) where he was promoted to professor, the Anesthesia Research Laboratories at Providence Hospital in Seattle (1961–1968), and the University of Toronto (1968–1970). He became the founding chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo in 1970. Following a sabbatical to the London Hospital Medical College in 1980, he returned to Toledo, retiring in 1985. Dr Morris travelled and taught internationally for the World Health Organization in Israel and Iran in 1951, with an around-the-world lecture tour beginning in New Zealand and Australia in 1958 and served as external examiner for the medical school at the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. He lectured and actively participated in ASA, World Congress and numerous other meetings and conferences for more than 60 years.

Lucien Morris was elected a Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons in England (FFARCS) in 1978, an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists Royal Australian College of Surgeons (FFARACS) in 1989, and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the Medical College of Ohio in 1994. He published his first paper in 1947 on thiopental and his last in 2011 on anesthesia history.

Dr Morris has also coached fencing as a University sport, guided canoe trips in Temagami, Ontario, and was an avid downhill skier, from the time he learned at age 41 until his last run at eighty-five. He is survived by his wife Jean, five children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Lucien will be remembered for his quick intellect and keen insights, his pleasure and insistence on getting the details right on every project, his love of the specialty of anesthesiology, his loyalty to his friends, respect for his teachers and willingness to mentor newcomers to the subjects he loved. He will be sorely missed by those he taught and colleagues worldwide.

By Mark E Schroeder, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA