Although there have been many forms of anesthesia throughout history, it wasn't until 1842 that William Edward Clarke used it for the first time in Western surgical practice. At the time, Clarke was an undergraduate student in Rochester, New York. He administered ether, through inhalation, in advance of a dental extraction. Today, this might seem insignificant, but until that moment all surgeries had been performed without anesthetic. That meant that surgical procedures were limited to what a patient could handle before flailing or dying of shock. Most surgeries at the time were amputations. Even then, an amputation was considered a last resort, when death was near inevitable. The advent of ether as a general anesthetic paved the way for surgeons to take on more invasive procedures, like tumor removal and heart surgery, saving more lives than ever before.
These days, everyone has some form of anatomical knowledge, even at a very basic level. Some people take great interest in the minutiae of the human body, going on to become surgeons, doctors, and researchers who further our collective knowledge. Whether you spend all your free time scouring anatomical textbooks or are happy with your ninth-grade biology training, who not try your hand at our anatomy quiz and see if we can guess your level of education? So crack your metacarpals and square your scapula — test your anatomical know how and see how you do!
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