When J. Frederick William Silk, M.D. (1858-1943), an English physician, shifted the focus of his career from general practice to anesthesia, the practice of anesthesia was considered by most physicians to be a lesser discipline, or not an independent discipline at all. Silk recognized the deficiencies and variability in anesthesia instruction across Great Britain and became an early advocate for improvements in anesthesia education and training. In an 1892 Lancet article, Silk strongly argued for the development of a formal anesthesia curriculum and provided a plan for improvement. He suggested that training in anesthesia should mirror training in other medical disciplines, such as surgery and obstetrics. Silk was also a founding member of the London Society of Anaesthetists in 1893, the first professional organization of anesthesia practitioners in the world.
To anesthetize the patient with the Silk Inhaler an absorbent material, such as cotton or a sponge, was soaked with anesthetic and placed inside the end of the inhaler with perforations. The mask-like end, shaped for the face, would be placed over the patient’s nose and mouth, so that the patient could inhale the anesthetic vapors from within the inhaler.
This Silk Inhaler was donated in honor of then WLM Assistant Librarian Karen R. Bieterman, MLIS by WLM Honorary Curator George Bause, MD.
Catalog Record: Silk Inhaler
Access Key: aikm
Accession No.: 2000-09-29-1
Title: [Silk Inhaler, metal / designed by J. Frederick W. Silk.]
Author: Silk, John Frederick William, 1858-1943.
Publisher: [London : Down & Brothers, 189-].
Physical Description: 1 inhaler : nickel plated brass ; 11 x 12 x 8 cm.
Subject: Inhalers, Anesthesia – Great Britain.
Subject: Masks, Anesthesia.
Subject: Anesthesia, Inhalation.
Note Type: General
Notes: Title from the Wood Library Museumís name for the apparatus. Material
included in title to distinguish between the celluloid and metal inhalers
designed by J. Frederick Silk.
Note Type: Citation
Notes: Correspondent. J. Frederick William Silk, M.D. : fourth of the series of
pioneers of modern anaesthesia. BJA. 1927;4(4):178-181.
Note Type: Citation
Notes: Duncum BM. The Development of Inhalation Anaesthesia. London: Royal Society
of Medicine Press, 1994:526-528.
Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: Inhaler is a hollow, nickel-plated brass, elliptic-cylinder; The hinged and
perforated distal end opens for insertion and removal of a sponge; Two widely
spaced, thin but stiff (approx. 2 mm in dia.) and rounded, nickel plated bars
extend from one side of the inhaler to the other, separating the sponge
compartment from the proximal end; The proximal end is shaped to cover both
mouth and nose.
Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. William Lyle July 13, 2010.
Note Type: Acquisition
Notes: Donated to the WLM by George S. Bause, M.D. in honor of Ms. Karen Bieterman.
Note Type: Historical
Notes: When J. Frederick William Silk, M.D. (1858-1943), an English physician,
shifted the focus of his career from general practice to anesthesia, the
practice of anesthesia was considered by most physicians to be a lesser
discipline, or not an independent discipline at all. Silk recognized the
deficiencies and variability in anesthesia curriculum across Great Britain
and became an early advocate for improvements in anesthesia education and
training. In an 1892 Lancet article Silk strongly argued for changes in
anesthesia instruction and provided a plan for improvement. His plan was to
have training in anesthesia mirror training in other medical disciplines.
Silk was also a founding member of the Society of Anesthetists and greatly
involved in the professional organization of anesthesia in England.
(Correspondent, 1927 ; Duncum, 1994.)