In the middle of the 19th century, a new participant entered the operating theatre. Sitting at the end of the operating table, largely unnoticed, the anaesthetist watched over the patient, observing everything around them. Many who took that seat were students, junior doctors, nurses, or even porters, but some were doctors who had elected to specialise in this emerging branch of medicine. One of these doctors was unique.
Joseph Thomas Clover was not a general practitioner or a physician, but a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. The surgeons knew him, they trusted him - he was one of them. When he chose to abandon surgery to work in the newly emerging specialty of anaesthesia, he was the person they wanted to work with.
For several decades, he was part of the evolution of surgery, as it changed from a rapid dirty business to a carefully planned aseptic event. He treated patients with great kindness, ensuring that they were pain free and safe, while caring for his surgical colleagues as well. He was their friend, their confidant. He created surgical equipment for them, shared the care of their sick patients, lent them money, attended their meetings and counselled them through difficult decisions. He treated people from all walks of life, from a drunken zookeeper to Florence Nightingale and Napoleon III. He designed anaesthetic equipment, promoting it through international meetings and exhibitions, and communication with surgeons and dentists to ensure he met their needs.
This is his story. Told by an anaesthetist and historian, someone who understands the struggles and challenges of the profession- as are today, and as they were.
Christine Ball is an anaesthetist at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, a senior lecturer at Monash University and the Honorary Curator at the Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History. She has a career long interest in the history of anaesthesia with many publications on the subject. She is currently working on the biography of Joseph Clover.
This talk is part of our Fear Series.
Doors will open at 6:30 PM. The talk will begin at 7:00 PM.
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