The management of pain was, and still is, an essential part of medical practice. Until the 1840s, Western medicine relied on substances such as alcohol and opium to deaden the senses. The introduction of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), ether and chloroform by the mid-nineteenth century enabled surgeons to safely and effectively reduce pain for longer periods of time. As a result, innovative and increasingly complex surgeries could take place.
In North America, ether was first publicly administered by Dr. William T. G. Morton (a Boston physician) in 1846. Knowledge of this highly effective anaesthetic spread quickly, making its way to what is now Canada via Saint John, New Brunswick where it was adopted by British physicians.
The anaesthetic mask pictured here, designed by Dr. Sydney Yankauer (1872-1932) – an American laryngologist and prolific inventor of medical equipment – became a standard medical tool after it was introduced around 1904. Its chrome-plated wire frame supports a tear-shaped mesh form. Gauze was draped over the frame and held in place using a spring. Ether would have been dropped onto the gauze by a trained health care provider in order to achieve the desired level of anaesthesia.
In the early twentieth century, before anesthesiology became a specialty, interns and nurses often administered anaesthetics due to the limited availability of physicians in some areas and to allow doctors to focus on the surgical procedure they were performing.
1. American Association of Anesthesiologists. “Masks & Inhalers: Yankauer Masks.” The Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology Online. http://woodlibrarymuseum.org/museum/item/60/yankauer-masks.
2. Duffin, Jacalyn. History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
3. Dunlop, Jennifer, Geertje Boschma and Rosella Jefferson. “Nursing and Anaesthesia: Historical Developments in Canada.” Canadian Operating Room Nursing Journal 27 no. 2 (2009), 16-20.
4. McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences, The History of the Department of Anesthesia Historical Timeline – Manuscript, McMaster University Online http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/anaesthesia/history/pdf/timeline.pdf.
5. Meals, Clifton G. and Roy A Meals. “A History of Surgery in the Instrument Tray: Eponymous Tools Used in Hand Surgery,” The Journal of Hand Surgery 32A no. 7 (2007), 942-953.
6. Shepherd, David A. E. and Kim E. Turner. Preserving the Heritage of Canadian Anesthesiology: A Panorama of People, Ideas, Techniques and Events. Toronto: Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society, 2004.
|ACCESSION # (Web Link):||1973.5.32|
|Object Name:||Yankauer Ether Mask|
|Manufacturer (Country):||J. F. Hartz Co. (Germany)|
|MESH Code:||Anesthesiology; Anesthesiology — instrumentation; Anaesthesia; Inhalation; Inhalation — inhaler/mask; Inhalation — inhaler/mask — mesh|
About “From the Collection”
“From the Collection” was a project originally published in 2010 to the Museum of Health Care’s website by former Curator Paul Robertson, with the goal being to highlight some the Museum’s most unique items that might be missed in our collection. Each artifact is presented as a bite-sized story, related information, and a link to it’s fully detailed entry on our free online digital catalogue!
Posts in the “From the Collection” series were originally created with support from Funded by the Ontario Museums and Technology Fund. The support of the Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is acknowledged.