Henry Hill Hickman (1800–1830)

Image credit: Royal College of Anaesthetists

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Henry Hill Hickman was a young Shropshire-born country doctor. He conceived, practised and promoted pain-free surgery, though its after-effects on the partially asphyxiated animals he mutilated were less benign. Hickman advocated what he called 'suspended animation' (general aneasthesia) for surgery on humans as well. He had the right idea about inhalation anaesthesia but picked the wrong agent. Carbon dioxide can indeed induce unconsciousness, but the gas often induces panic attacks. Worse, in larger quantities it can easily kill. In 1826, Hickman's work was savaged in an article in 'The Lancet' entitled 'Surgical Humbug'. Wounded but unbowed, Hickman decided to try his luck abroad. In 1828 he went to Paris and presented a paper to Bourbon King Charles X.

Royal College of Anaesthetists



Henry Hill Hickman (1800–1830)


oil on canvas


H 77.5 x W 64.5 cm

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Royal College of Anaesthetists

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