You may be surprised to read that a dentist is recognized as the discoverer of anesthesia.
As the story goes, in 1844, Dr. Horace Wells witnessed the administration of “laughing gas” as a street demonstration for the entertainment of passersby. He saw that, with the gas, a person didn’t seem to be hurt when he fell. This left Dr.Wells thinking about possible medical applications. He obtained some “laughing gas”, as some still call it, chemically known as nitrous oxide. He then had a friend put him under sedation and while under sedation he had a tooth extracted. He was impressed positively by what he experienced. He felt certain he had discovered something that would be of great practical benefit for many patients.
He went on to develop his technique for the use of nitrous oxide in certain treatment situations. His discovery had touched off the revolution of administering anesthesia to patients in the United States. Twenty or so years later, both the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association credited Dr. Horace Wells as the man who discovered anesthesia and its administration for patients
Fast forward to 1949, we find that another dentist, Dr. Leonard Monheim, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine established the first formal anesthesia residency program. His initial residents were dental and dental hygiene students.
During those days, Dr. Monheim and his residents, who were all essentially dentists or in the dental field, provided all anesthesia services for the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas including all of its hospitals. Soon medical schools followed suit. The art and science of anesthesia continues to evolve, improve, and expand to benefit more and more people even to this day.
An interesting side note: During the years 1995-1997, Dr. Anthony Caputo did his anesthesia residency at anesthesia’s pioneering university, the University of Pittsburgh.