Vol. 15 No. 3 (2023): BAPIOAC23 - National Conference

Advent of Modern Anaesthetic Medicine in India: Contribution of Calcutta Medical College

Honorary Professor in Otology, University of Siena, Italy
sushruta cover showing a regal building at night

Published 2023-10-03


  • sushruta,
  • anaesthetic medicine,
  • Calcutta Medical College

How to Cite

Dasgupta, S. (2023). Advent of Modern Anaesthetic Medicine in India: Contribution of Calcutta Medical College. Sushruta Journal of Health Policy & Opinion, 15(3). https://doi.org/10.38192/15/3.17


An indispensable modality of treating disease in the annals of human medicine is surgery which entails removal of a body part causing disease. Since the dawn of civilisation and man’s discovery of tools, surgery has been an integral part of medicine over the ages. However, removal of a live body tissue came with its own complications, most importantly pain. This stretched human endurance to the limit and indeed surgery itself was complicated by significant morbidity and mortality. The trade-off between cure and maim or even death often pushed surgery in the opposite direction.


A need therefore arose to provide painless surgery, i.e., a resection when the patient would be insensitive to pain. The earliest allusion to such a philosophy dates back to Sushruta in 500 BC where opium, alcohol and hemp were used to blunt the pain during surgery. Following this, all over the world, painkillers or drugs influencing sensorium were utilised to the same effect. Hypnotism or mesmerism in susceptible individuals worked to a certain extent.  It was not until the Enlightenment period in Europe that chemical gases were identified which had a similar effect. Humphrey Davy in 1799 described two important effects of nitrous oxide which were euphoria and analgesia and recommended its use in surgery for the first time. Even before, a surgeon from London, James Moore observed nerve compression as a method to alleviate pain during amputations that was tried successfully only once by James Hunter, the father of modern surgery.


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