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heartily. Dr Duncan waltzed around the room, and Dr Simpson, altho he was usually the dignified Professor of Medicine and Midwifery at the University of Edinburgh, now wiggled his toes and would have stood on his learned head for a doughnut. Some ladies came into the room, and the gentlemen were remarkably amiable. They were more polite than Chesterfield, and the silvery stream of continual conversation which unceasingly flowed from their gifted tongues would have worried the mouth of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The delighted ladies had never before met such pleasant companions. They did not know that these gay Lotharios were drunk on chloroform! General Wolfe was killed at the moment of victory, and, unfortunately, in the midst of their newly-acquired popularity with admiring femininity, the secondary effects of the chloroform vapors became evident. The charming doctors became confused, and then like the crew in Coleridge's Ancient Marinera heavy thump, a lifeless lump, they dropped down one by one.
When Professor Simpson awoke, he found himself prostrate on the floor. His thought was as follows: 'This is better than ether.'
One of the young ladies, Miss Petrie, wishing to prove that she was as brave as a man, inhaled the chloroform, folded her arms across her breast, and fell asleep chirping, 'I'm an angel! Oh, I'm an angel!'- but Simpson searched in vain for the wings.
He soon prepared a paper on Anesthetics which he read before the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh, and dwelt especially on the superiority of chloroform over ether. He began at once to use it in his obstetrical practice. One would naturally suppose that the whole world rose as one person and hailed Simpson as blessed, and that women especially felt like traveling from the ends of the earth to cast flowers in his path. Instead of this adulation, however, he was attacked on so many sides that like the lofty Milton he might have said:
The controversy grew so bitter that had Simpson been a Semmelweis he might have become insane, and had he been a Horace Wells he would have killed himself. But Simpson was the right man in the right place; he had the courage which defends and the courage which attacks. His was a warm and tender heart, but these desirable qualities did not prevent him from showing proper temper at unwarranted conservatism and unnecessary stupidity. He was no meek-cheeked weakling, and his hand was not lily-fingered. He was the leader of a great battle and he fought with a clenched fist, for the man behind the truth has little time to waste in mewing to the macrobiotic mush of the multitude.
Unfortunately, it was not only the unscientific rabble which shouted at Simpson. Meigs of Philadelphia, Ramsbotham of Great Britain, Scanzoni of Germany men of brains and skill - opposed the innovation. It seems that whenever a great radical steers his progressive ship over the waves of improvement, there is pitted against him a great reactionist, who by the weight of his authority beats back the advancing craft, and causes it to tremble and flounder among the sands and shoals of established usage.
It is interesting to recall the arguments which were urged against Simpson's introduction of anesthetics into obstetrics. Objections were seldom raised on the ground that the administration of chloroform would prove injurious to either mother or child. The disputants did not claim that the anesthetic would interfere with the natural progress of labor, or impede the uterine contractions, or that there would be an increased elimination of nitrogen in the new-born babe. Such statements tho incorrect would at least be entitled to the gravest and most careful consideration. But such arguments were not advanced. Instead, much stress was laid on the fact that an anesthetic sometimes arouses the amorous feelings, and that some women who have been under the influ
ence of ether or chloroform have confessed that while anesthetized they believed they were engaged in the act of coition. That such occurrences were exceptional and unusual, while labor-pains were otherwise, was not taken into account, and it was both seriously asserted and solemnly maintained that if anesthetics were used in obstetrics the holy pangs of labor would be metamorphosed into exhibitions of sexual passion.
It was further argued that the maternal instinct was in danger of being abolished, as a mother could not love children whom she had brought into the world without suffering.
But even these were not the main contentions. Indeed, they were only breezes in relation to the whirlwind which was to overwhelm him; they were only the lapping of the waves in comparison with the howling storm which was to seethe about him. For, in endeavoring to assuage the pangs of childbirth, Simpson, tho orthodox, had forgotten to reckon with Genesis iii, 16- the passage which contains God's malediction to mothers: 'I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.'
The parsons got busy. Simpson was denounced as an impious meddler who sought to overthrow the divine decree of Providence. Of course, they called him an atheist, and his followers were considered imps of Beelzebub. Someone quoted Dr Osborn's essay in which the author claims that God's curse as to painful parturition was intended to be continued as long as the world endures, which could be seen by the fact that the erect position of woman's body makes labor more tedious and difficult in her case than in the case of cows, sows and other quadrupeds which have the horizontal form.
But Scripture can be answered by Scripture, and Simpson on his part quoted Genesis ii, 21, in which it is related that when the Lord wished to take a rib from Adam in order to make Eve, he 'caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept.' This citation helped to dispel prejudice in some quarters. It was seen that God himself made use of anesthetics in difficult operations!
Yet it is impossible to predict what would have been the immediate fate of anesthetics in general, and chloroform in particular, had not Simpson unexpectedly found an almighty ally, stronger than a fort of facts, more powerful than an arsenal of arguments. Darwin had a first-rate bulldog named Huxley which showed its teeth when its gentle master was attacked, but Simpson had a mastiff that disarmed criticism and made further abuse impossible. Queen Victoria was pregnant; there was a quickening within the royal womb; the day for labor arrived; Dr Snow stood by her bedside; he put something on her face, and the regal mother inhaled chloroform. A few years later England's Queen conceived once more, and on the approach of parturition again availed herself of Simpson's anesthetic.
What had become of blasphemy? Where was sacrilege now? How about that passage in Genesis? Who now dare call anesthesia an invention of the devil? Did not God's right-hand favorite approve of it? Instead of a heretic Simpson became a hero; he was no longer a rebel, but a savior.
Queen Victoria seemed grateful to the man who had eased her passage thru life, for in due time the baker's son had a Sir in front of his name and a Bart. after. The doctor adopted for his coat-of-arms the rod of Esculapius over the motto Victo dolere! Oxford gave him a D. C. L., Edinburgh has his statue, and his bust stands in Westminster Abbey.
The times had changed, the times had changed. The old order perished and a better rose from its ashes. A blessing of inestimable value was conferred upon mankind. He who was born of woman had brought unto woman a boon!