Strand Street Dispensary: Source F

From The Obstretic Memoirs and Contributions of James Y Simpson, published 1856.

James Simpson was the Scottish obstetrician (a surgeon who specialises in child-birth) and is famous for the discovery of chloroform as an anaesthetic in 1847. In this book, he collected accounts from surgeons across Britain about their use of the drug.


“I forget how often I had used the chloroform when I last wrote you; but, since then, I have used it frequently, with invariable success so far as it is concerned. There have been no still-born children from its use, and all the children have continued to thrive well; none as yet have had a fit from teething – this I consider a great matter. We want some powerful proof here to bring it into general use. I cannot use it in half my cases, as I would not do it without leave from the patient. I had a case of puerperal mania the other day, and did not use it in it. If I had used it, I should have been blamed. This is so small a place that everything one does is at once known. I have often operated under its use, with no ill effect.

“Your &tc.,



Questions to consider:

  1. How effective did Dr. Simpson find chloroform in his treatment of the Douglas poor?
  2. What was the main problem that he experienced around its use?
  3. Do you think that it was more or less difficult for island doctors to try out new techniques and inventions? Why?


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