Before anaesthetics were routinely used to sedate patients for operations, surgery was an even more traumatic affair than it can be today. Historically, patients may have been given alcohol to soothe them or may even have attempted hypnosis techniques.
Nowadays, anaesthetics combine a range of different drugs to relax muscles and put the patient to sleep. They have revolutionised surgery by giving surgeons the time to perform complex operations.
This anaesthetic mask was designed in Germany by Curt Schimmelbusch (1860-1895) in 1889 to allow the anaesthetics ether and chloroform to be dripped onto folded gauze without touching a patient’s face. It was used in the UK regularly until the 1960s and occasionally afterwards in remote situations when modern anaesthetic apparatus was not available. This includes remote villages in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where it may have been used to anaesthetise a mother during the application of obstetric forceps.