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George Washington Frost Mellen and Resuscitation with Nitrous Oxide in 1847

      Highlights

      • In 1847 George W.F. Mellen prominently proposed N2O instead of O2 for resuscitation.
      • Putative resuscitation with nitrous oxide was reiterated for at least 46 years.
      • Humphry Davy dubbed nitrous oxide to be respirable.
      • Support of flames falsely justified hypoxic nitrous oxide anesthesia.
      • Gardner Q. Colton embraced the concept of George W.F. Mellen.

      Abstract

      In The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of 1847 (later to be called The New England Journal of Medicine), Boston chemist George Washington Frost Mellen claimed that inhaled nitrous oxide gas supports human life in the manner of oxygen gas, and he proposed the use of nitrous oxide in resuscitation from drowning and from carbon monoxide poisoning. The claim was reprinted in at least one dental journal and was long cited as justification for the use of 100% nitrous oxide for inhaled anesthesia. Advocates included anesthesia pioneer and painless dentist Gardner Quincy Colton. Though misguided as to nitrous oxide, Mellen was a prominent member of the Boston community for the abolition of slavery.

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      References

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