The French Academy of Sciences: Deliberations related to the discovery of anaesthesia

UMMS Affiliation

School of Medicine; Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Anesthesia and Analgesia | Anesthesiology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine


In the mid-19th century, the French Academy of Sciences was one of the oldest and most prominent scientific institutions in the world. Individuals seeking credit for the discovery of surgical anaesthesia contacted the French academy to achieve recognition from this prestigious body of scientists and to spread news of the discovery throughout continental Europe. The French Academy of Sciences was established under the reign of King Louis XIV in 1666 with the goal of supporting and advancing scientific research. Membership was limited to the most accomplished French scientists, who presented their research at weekly meetings and advised the French government on scientific matters. The academy began their deliberations on the discovery of anaesthesia in January 1847. Since anaesthesia had already been tested in the United States and Great Britain, the main contributions of the French academy deliberations included refining administration techniques and documenting the effects of anaesthesia on animals and humans. Recognition of surgical anaesthesia by the French Academy of Sciences and the swift adoption of its use in surgical practice throughout the country lent credibility to this new discovery and enabled the discipline of surgery to progress. Nevertheless, the academy was not able to solve the initial problem for which they may have been contacted-the dispute about which individual deserved credit for the discovery of anaesthesia.


Alfred Velpeau, Charles Jackson, Francois Magendie, French Academy of Sciences, Horace Wells, William Morton, discovery of anaesthesia

DOI of Published Version



Chernick RE, Desai MS. The French Academy of Sciences: Deliberations related to the discovery of anaesthesia. Anaesth Intensive Care. 2020 Nov;48(3_suppl):48-56. doi: 10.1177/0310057X20971637. Epub 2020 Dec 7. PMID: 33287547. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Anaesthesia and intensive care

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID