Many agents that rendered insensibility also promised transcendence, euphoria, even a touch of the sublime. Christened “spiritus aethereus” in 1730 by German mathematician F. G. Frobenius, ether, by its very name, evoked the heavens. One century later, neighbors of chloroform’s American co-discoverer, physician Samuel Guthrie, nicknamed his nectar-like substance “sweet whiskey.” After W. T. G. Morton’s 1846 demonstration, Americans exalted ether as the ace of anesthetics; however, the next year, Europeans deemed chloroform supreme. Although more cardiodepressive and arrhythmogenic than ether, chloroform afforded fragrant potency to achieve swift anesthetic depth. Nonetheless, rising deaths spurred the Royal Medico-Chirurgical (Surgical) Society of London to form an 1864 commission to examine chloroform’s physiological effects. A Scottish commissioner, physician George Harley, championed his A.C.E. mixture (lower left): a star-studded 1:2:3 ratio of alcohol (upper middle), chloroform (upper left), and ether (upper right). Combining the trio’s superlative properties—the (initial) stimulation of alcohol, the strength of chloroform, and the stability of ether—A.C.E. enjoyed first-rate popularity for decades to come. (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois.)

Many agents that rendered insensibility also promised transcendence, euphoria, even a touch of the sublime. Christened “spiritus aethereus” in 1730 by German mathematician F. G. Frobenius, ether, by its very name, evoked the heavens. One century later, neighbors of chloroform’s American co-discoverer, physician Samuel Guthrie, nicknamed his nectar-like substance “sweet whiskey.” After W. T. G. Morton’s 1846 demonstration, Americans exalted ether as the ace of anesthetics; however, the next year, Europeans deemed chloroform supreme. Although more cardiodepressive and arrhythmogenic than ether, chloroform afforded fragrant potency to achieve swift anesthetic depth. Nonetheless, rising deaths spurred the Royal Medico-Chirurgical (Surgical) Society of London to form an 1864 commission to examine chloroform’s physiological effects. A Scottish commissioner, physician George Harley, championed his A.C.E. mixture (lower left): a star-studded 1:2:3 ratio of alcohol (upper middle), chloroform (upper left), and ether (upper right). Combining the trio’s superlative properties—the (initial) stimulation of alcohol, the strength of chloroform, and the stability of ether—A.C.E. enjoyed first-rate popularity for decades to come. (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois.)

Jane S. Moon, M.D., University of California, Los Angeles, California, and Melissa L. Coleman, M.D., Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania.