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Sir James Young Simpson, 1811 - 1870. Discoverer of chloroform

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Sir James Young Simpson, 1811 - 1870. Discoverer of chloroform About 1860

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
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.

Glossary Open

Albumen print

A print with the chemicals carried in a film of egg white to give a clear, detailed image.


A transparent film of gun cotton dissolved in ether and containing potassium iodide spread over a glass plate negative. Wet collodion was sensitised on the spot and developed immediately. It gives high resolution of detail. Dry collodion was usually found to be less sensitive.

Albumen print, Collodion


  • Acc. No. PGP 188.1
  • Medium Albumen print from wet collodion negative in an album
  • Size 23.90 x 18.80 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1988