1772 Nitrous Oxide gas first discovered by English scientist
1776 Joseph Priestley published his findings about Nitrous
Oxide and other gases in 'Experiments and Observations on
Different Kinds of Air', volume II of a three volume series.
1799 Humphrey Davy of the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol,
England, experimented with the physiological properties of
the Nitrous Oxide, such as its effects upon respiration. He
administered the gas to visitors to the institute, and after
watching the effects on people who inhaled it, coined the
term 'laughing gas'.
1800 Humphrey Davy published the book, 'Researches, Chemical
and Philosophical: Chiefly Concerning Nitrous Oxide', in which
he described inhaling nitrous oxide himself and obtaining
a degree of analgesia from a painful condition he was suffering.
The information about the anesthetic effect of nitrous was
not tested and utilized for another 45 years.
1800 - 1840 The primary use of Nitrous Oxide is for recreational
enjoyment and public shows. So called nitrous oxide capers
took place in travelling medicine shows and carnivals, where
the public pays a small price to inhale a minute's worth of
gas. Many dignitaries and famous individuals from Clifton
and Bristol came to inhale Humphrey Davy's purified nitrous
oxide for recreational purposes, including poets Coleridge
and Southey, the potter Josiah (later Sir Josiah) Wedgwood,
and Roget of Roget's Thesaurus. 2
1844 The anaesthetic properties of Nitrous Oxide are first
demonstrated by Dr. Horace Wells, a British dentist.
1845 Dr. Wells demonstrates the effects of Nitrous Oxide
at Harvard Medical School. Unfortunately, the patient having
his tooth removed expressed that he felt discomfort; the audience
booed Wells and the experiment was deemed a failure. This
led to Wells' professional downfall and eventual suicide in
1848. It wasn't until 150 years later than Wells was recognized
as the "Discoverer of Anesthesia".
1863 Nitrous Oxide resurges as an anesthetic used in dentistry,
primarily through the efforts of Colton who opened a series
of dental institutes utilizing Nitrous across the United States.
At the time, 100% Nitrous Oxide was administered without supplemental
1868 Colton and his partner have performed 75,000 extractions
using nitrous oxide in the last 5 years. 5
1880 The use of anesthesia (chloroform, ether, or nitrous
oxide) becomes generally accepted during surgery and childbirth.
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