The Origin of Medicine
When and how was an anesthetic invented?
Anesthetic, Revolution in Surgical Operations
The brutal operating room, which was stained with fear and scream, has transformed into a room with quiet silence. The best invention of the 19th century can be said to be an anesthetic that drastically reduced the fear of terrible surgery. Its release led rapid improvement in surgery, and a patient could inhale a breath of relief before lying on an operating table.

- Jung Seung-gyu (Author of “The 12 Drug Stories That Saved Humanity”)
Painful surgery
Before an anesthetic was invented, patients had to risk their lives to undergo surgery. People used to say, "I would rather kill myself than undergoing surgery." And it was rightly so. At that time, what were inevitably used to reduce the pain of surgery were alcohol and opium. Patients felt less pain after being heavily drunk, or they became fuddled and unconscious due to opium. After Napoleon's expedition to Russia, ice was used based on experience that injured soldiers had less pain from surgery they underwent in the cold winter in Russia during their retreat.

The three methods, however, were far from satisfactory. There was a limitation because all of them were reluctantly used as if people were clutching at straws. In 1839, French surgeon Louis Belfu lamented, "It is only an unacceptable delusion to eliminate pain in surgery." A few years later, however, such a view disappeared with the effects of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) found in the United States.

Laughing gas, the first anesthetic
William Morton, another dentist, was also stimulated by laughing gas, and discovered that ether is also anesthetic. Ether can be easily made by hydrolysis of alcohol (ethanol). On October 16, 1846, a surgery for a patient with a tumor on his neck was open to the public at Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States. Morton anesthetized the patient with ether, and the operation was underwent with a surgeon.

The result was a huge success. Waking up from anesthesia, the patient shouted, "This is not a fraud." The first witnesses to the painless surgery were surprised by the anesthetic effect of ether. This day was designated as "Ether Day," presenting a special moment that science could control pain. Since then, chloroform, halothane and seboflurane were invented, and an anesthetic has become a valuable drug that is indispensable for our lives.

Necessity for surgery
An anesthetic is essential in surgery. In 2020 alone, 1.95 million surgeries were performed in Korea. If anesthetics had not been invented, it would not have been possible to perform so many surgeries. The areas where surgery is performed the most are cataract, spine and hemorrhoids, in descending order. Anaesthetics that make patients feel no pain have greatly accelerated the development of medical science.

Fear for pain is almost a human instinct. Considering that people have fear for a short moment of injection, incising the abdomen open and cutting intestines are impossible to be done without anesthesia. There is a huge difference in surgery before and after the invention of anesthetic drugs. Thanks to them, an operating room filled with fear has been transformed into a place of silence.