Anesthesia Machine


Anesthesia forever changed surgery from a horrifying prospect to what is today a fairly common, if still uncomfortable, proposition.

For centuries doctors used alcohol, opium and other drugs to dull pain for an operation.   Under these conditions it was relatively easy to “put someone to sleep”, but often difficult to revive them.  Afterwards, a patient might easily die from shock or infection.

Modern painless surgery began in the 1840s with the use of ether.  Medicine at once realized the breakthrough.  Almost immediately the first “painless” surgical operation in October 1846 was re-enacted in front of a Daguerreotype camera.  The physicians and surgeons assumed their roles as they had in the real operation.

Developments in painless surgery continued into the 20th Century with the introduction of chloroform and an anesthesia machine.  Developed by Dr. Henry Boyle, his machine delivered measured amounts of anesthetic and oxygen to the patient. 

Though considerably different in style and complexity from Boyles’  original, anesthesia machines like the one in the Talbot Museum patented around 1940  by the Ohio Medical Instrument Company would still be called “Boyle’s” machines until the end of the 20th Century.

Location in Museum

In the Operating Room Exhibit


Circa 1960
  • Re-enactment of first painless sugery using ether October 1846
  • anesthesia  circa 1920's
  • anesthesia machine circa 1960 Boyle Machine
  • anesthesia machine controls
  • anesthesia machine circa 1960 control gauge