About this artwork

An Edinburgh obstetrician, Sir James Young Simpson is famous for his discovery of the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic during surgery and childbirth. In 1847, whilst searching for a substitute for ether, known to have several disadvantages, Simpson and his assistants tried inhaling a sample of chloroform. Their immediate collapse and unconsciousness convinced them of the effectiveness of the substance as a sedative and painkiller, and within a week it had been successfully used during surgery. This photograph of Simpson features in a personal album. Collecting photographs of famous people was a common adult hobby, similar to collecting cigarette cards. It provided a lucrative business for studio photographers who often produced photographic prints for this purpose.

John Moffat

John Moffat