The History of Anesthesia: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on the History of Anesthesia, Santiago, Spain, September 19–23, 2001. Edited by José Carlos Diz, Avelino Franco, Douglas R. Bacon, Joseph Rupreht, Julián Alvarez. Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, 2002. ISBN: 0–444–51003–6 (hardbound), 0–444–51293–4 (paperback). Pages: 630. Price: $180 (hardbound), $75 (paperback).

Where in the world could one ever find a widely diverse potpourri from 92 international anesthesiologists and historians describing the weird and wonderful history of anesthesia, from sleep induction in the Asclepieion to causes of death among Spanish anesthetists? The answer would be at the Fifth International Symposium of the History of Anesthesia in Santiago, Spain, September 19–23, in the year 2001.

However, for those of you who were reluctant to take a transoceanic flight 8 days after September 11, 2001, the good news is that you can join the adventure without leaving your favorite armchair or beach lounge. This volume is full of such curious discoveries as the history of Croatian anesthesiology, anesthesia depicted in cartoons and comics, anesthesia in philately, and even anesthesia in nummis (the uninitiated will just have to look this one up!).

Beyond the esoteric, there is some seriously historical information in this book. Peter Safar’s 14-page, 75-reference chapter on the development of cardiopulmonary–cerebral resuscitation in the twentieth century is weighty indeed; as is Michael Goerig’s astute study of the bone marrow as a site for the reception of infusions, transfusions, and anesthetic agents. Rodney Westhorpe gives a concise but complete account of intravenous barbiturates, including 22 chemical structures! One of my favorite sections considers medieval religious history in a chapter about the medical and surgical treatment of the pilgrims of the Jacobean Roads, by C. N. Nemes from Pfaffenhofen, Germany. Also brilliantly eccentric are the studies in antiquity, including archaeological evidence on the use of opium in the Minoan world, pain relief and sedation in Roman Byzantine texts, and the history of caffeine as used in anesthesia.

There is something to interest everyone, from critical care, regional and obstetrical anesthesia, pain, resuscitation, education, and arts to international and military medicine. If you can’t find something in this collection that you really want to stop and read, you are a dullard indeed.

The strengths of this book are its wide-ranging topics, great illustrations and references, and concise but well-packed chapters that tell a story. The price is a bit high, but whoever said that the educated mind is economical? Certainly, this timeless collection is highly recommended for medical librarians, training programs, and of course, the bookcases of the intellectually curious.