Sunday, January 17, 2010

James Simpson, the Discoverer of Chloroform



James Simpson was a Scotman, a man of humble birth, the son of a baker. He was born in a small village in Scotland, in the early part of the last century.Though his father was only a poor man, he made up his mind that he would give his son James the best of all possible gifts, a good education.  He sent him first to the village school. James quickly proved himslef a good student, and very soon stood high among his class fellows. He worked hard at his books and, in his spare time and holidays, like a good son, worked hard for his father. He was not ashamed to help him in his trade, and would often serve the customers who came into the shop, or would go round with his father's horse and cart, to deliver bread to customers in the neighboring farms and villages. As soon as he had passed through the school, his father sent him on to the University of Edinburg. It was not an easy thing for a poor baker to find enough money to send his son to the University. But the father was determined to give his promising son the best possible education and was ready to make every kind of sacrifice in order to achieve this object.
So to Edinburg University James went, then, as now, a famous school for the study of medicine. There James made friends with two young men, who were studying medicine and soon made up his mind that he too would become a doctor. This meant a long course of study, and James, who knew, that it was no easy thing for his family to pay his University-expenses, lived as carefully and economically as he could, while every penny that he could save went to buy the books necessary for his studies. In the vacations he not only helped his father as before, but also assisted the village doctor by visiting patients and dispensing medicines for him. In this way his time was spent, until he had passed all the necessary examinations, and was qualified to practise as a doctor. Just about this time his father died. His elder brother thought it would be greatly to James' advantage, if he could continue for a further period at the University, in order to pursue his medical studies still longer. He, accordingly, with great generousity, came to this help and James continued to pursue his medical studies, not only in Edinburg but also at some of the more famous universities and schools of medicine in different countries in Europe. So that, when he at last embarked on his medical career, it was with the highest degrees and qualifications that the Universities of Europe could give him.
Now James Simpson, or Dr James Simpson as we ought perhaps now to call him, was often horrified at the terrible sufferings of people who came to the hospitals for treatment; and  he began to make it the chief aim of his life, to find out some new discovery, which would help to get rid of, or at least alleviate, this cruel suffering. It is impossible to describe the suffering of men and women who had undergo operations, in the days before the discovery of  chloroform. It was said, and probably with truth, that a patient preparing for an operation was like a condemned criminal waiting for execution. Such was the terror of unfortunate people about to undergo an operation, that cases had been known, where patients had died, simply out of fear of the terrible pain that awaited them. Knowing all these facts only too well, Dr Simpson would ask himself again and again: "Can nothing be done to prevent this awful suffering?"
When his long day's work was over, he gave up all his spare time, often working till long after midnight to testing the effects of different drugs in lessening pain. He used to get chemists to send him different drugs, and he and some of his medical friends would make experiments with them, first trying their effects, not upon their patients, but upon themselves. He knew that such experiments were full of danger, but he thought only of how he could bring relief to suffering men  and women, and paid little heed to the danger.
One day a chemist sent him a certain drug that had lately been discovered. That very night he put to the test. He and some of his friends began to  inhale the vapour of the drug, in order to see what effect it had. First of all they began to feel excited and cheerful, then, one by one, they became quiet and sleepy, and at last subsided upon the floor.  Dr Simpson was one of  the first to recover consciousness. As soon as he recovered his senses, he cried out: "This is the drug that I have been looking for".
The name of that drug was chloroform. Next day Dr Simpson ordered a quantity of the drug from the chemist, and began to try its effects upon his patients. The results were wonderful. After trying a number of experiments, Dr Simpson wrote a book, in which he told the world all about this marvellous discovery. It seems  strange to us nowadays to hear that a great many people objected to the use of chloroform, and said that it was wrong and even wicked to administer such a drug to sufferers.
Some were jealous of Dr Simpson's wonderful success. Others said that it was not right to prevent pain. They said that pain was sent by God and that it was wicked  to try to do away with it. But Dr Simpson knew only too well what a terrible thing pain is and paid no heed to these objections.
He knew that many men, who were brave enough to face death on the field of battle, would tremble at the thought of the surgeon's knife, and regardless of all hostile criticism, he set himself to conquer and kill the monster: Pain.
He had to fight against many difficulties, and to overcome many enemies, but he knew he was right; and in the end, in spite of all opposition, he was victorious. And we to-day enjoy the results of all his hard work, patient study and devoted selfsacrifice.
James Simpson, the poor baker's son, now became a very famous man, whose name and work were known throughout the whole world and the honour of a baronetcy was conferred upon him by the Queen, as a reward for his services to mankind. But, though he became famous and wealthy, he never became proud or selfish, and was always ready to place his great skill at the service of even the poorest, from whom he could hope for no reward but their gratitude. And when at last he died, in the arms of that loving elder brother, who had done so much to help him in his boyhood, not only his own country, but the whole world, united to pay honour to him, as one of the great benefactors of the human race.

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