WLM ID: aili | Catalog Record
Nitrous Oxide was first produced and described in 1772 by Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), a progressive English theologian, author and self taught chemist who is best remembered for his discovery of oxygen. Some years later, Sir Humphry Davy, an eminent British chemist and inventor, was the first to suggest the use of nitrous oxide to control surgical pain. Davy’s suggestion went unappreciated and instead nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” became a recreational intoxicant and spectacle for entertaining demonstrations.
It was not until 1844 that Horace Wells, an American dentist, thought to use nitrous oxide (N2O) for pain during tooth extractions. The idea came to him after witnessing a man badly injure his leg while under the influence of N2O and not recall the injury or the pain of sustaining the injury. Wells had one of his own teeth extracted while under the effects of N2O. It was such a success that in early 1845 after using it with some of his patients, Wells gave a demonstration to medical professionals at the Massachusetts General Hospital. The demonstration did not go well, and, with the subsequent successes of ether and chloroform, the anesthetic potential for N2O lay dormant a few more decades.
The manufacturer of the N2O once held in this gas cylinder (or tank), the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, was the dominant supplier of dental and medical supplies throughout the 19th century.