James Young Simpson was one of the first obstetricians to administer anesthesia during childbirth in nineteenth century Scotland. Before his work in the 1800s, physicians had few ways to reduce the pain of childbirth. Simpson experimented with the use of ether and chloroform, both gaseous chemicals, to temporarily relieve pain. He found that those chemicals both successfully inhibited the pain women felt during childbirth and pain during other surgeries. Patients under the influence of chloroform fell asleep and were unaware of the intense pain of childbirth. Simpson’s work was not popular for a variety of reasons, and the major claim against his practice being that pregnant women should not receive a form of pain relief during labor and childbirth. Against common beliefs at the time, Simpson advocated in favor of using anesthetics for pain-free labor, which later became the standard for surgical procedures and childbirth.

In the late nineteenth century, August Karl Gustav Bier was a surgeon in Germany who studied spinal cord anesthesia, later called spinal block. Bier found that, depending upon the amount of anesthesia introduced into the spinal cord, a large area of the human body could be numbed to various degrees. Bier established a procedure to numb individuals from the lower legs to the upper abdomen, with the individual’s numbness ranging from them feeling pressure on their body to them feeling nothing at all. Bier’s spinal block was one of the first instances of regional anesthesia, or numbing a large area of the body, as opposed to only local anesthesia, or numbing a small area of the body. Bier’s development of spinal anesthesia led to improved pain management during major surgeries, including cesarean sections and amputations.

Andreas Vesalius, also called Andries van Wesel, studied anatomy during the sixteenth century in Europe. Throughout his career, Vesalius thoroughly dissected numerous human cadavers, and took detailed notes and drawings of his research. Compiling his research, Vesalius published an anatomy work titled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books). The Fabrica included illustrations of dissected men, women, and uteruses with intact fetuses. Vesalius was one of the first physicians to accurately record and draw what was inside of the human body based on his findings from human autopsies, which led to improved understanding of the human body and enhanced surgery techniques.

Ian Donald was an obstetrician who developed the technology and therapy of ultrasound diagnostics during the twentieth century in Europe. Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. During the early 1900s, physicians had no way to see inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. Donald developed the first method of scanning human internal anatomy in real time, which enabled doctors to diagnose potentially fatal tumors and cysts. Donald’s development of ultrasound imaging enabled doctors and midwives to more accurately track fetal development and prevent potential health problems.

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