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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 1861

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
An Edinburgh doctor specialising in pregnancy and childbirth, James Young Simpson is famous for his discovery of the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic. At the time, many believed that the pain suffered at childbirth was sanctioned by God. Simpson, however, believed that the relief of pain should be a central concern of medical professionals. Although ether had been trialled during surgery, its use had certain disadvantages. Whilst searching for a substitute, in 1847 Simpson and his assistants inhaled a sample of chloroform, and their immediate collapse convinced them of its effectiveness as a sedative and painkiller. This small photograph of Simpson, in ‘carte de visite’ format, was produced specifically for a photography collection – a common hobby in the mid-nineteenth century.

Glossary Open

Carte de visite

A small photograph, stuck on card the size of a visiting card.

Carte de visite


  • Acc. No. PGP 752
  • Medium Albumen carte de visite from wet collodion negative
  • Size 7.70 x 5.40 cm
  • Credit Provenance unknown