The Fourth International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia. Edited by Jochen Schulte am Esch, Michael Goerig.Lübeck, Germany, Verlag DrägerDruck, 1998. Pages: 878. Cost: $90.00.

This book contains the published proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia, held in Hamburg, Germany, on April 26–29, 1997. Although the history of this specialty may seem arcane and uninteresting to some readers, this book contains a number of fascinating vignettes. Special lectures by T. B. Boulton and L. E. Morris outline the history of pain and its alleviation during surgery. Others of the more than 150 essays, which emphasize Western European and North American contributions, describe such topics as the history of neuroanesthesia, the introduction of lidocaine, early reports from around the world about death and complications after anesthesia, the history of resuscitation, and forgotten contributors to the development of anesthesia in various locales. The harmful effects of foolishness, missteps, and racism on the development and application of anesthetic techniques are also detailed.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the early applications of spinal and other regional anesthetic techniques, about the lives of pioneers and innovators in anesthesia, and about the central individuals in the Wooley and Roe tragedies.

Costing $90, this book is unlikely to become a bestseller. It will be of great interest to medical historians and to the many physicians for whom history is a captivating hobby. Reading this work made me regret that I had not attended the symposium.