Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hanaoka Seishū

Hanaoka Seishū (November 30, 1760November 21, 1835) was a Japanese physician, who was the first to perform surgery using general anaesthesia, almost forty years before Dr. Crawford Williamson Long operated in Danielsville, Georgia using anaesthesia.

Hanaoka studied medicine in Kyoto, and became a medical practitioner in Wakayama district, in the southern part of Osaka, where he had been born. Seishū Hanaoka learnt traditional Japanese medicine as well as Dutch-imported European surgery. The imported knowledge was very difficult for him and other Japanese physicians to learn, as few foreign medical texts were permitted brought into Japan due to the nation's self-imposed isolation policy of Sakoku.

He was intrigued when he learned that around 200 AD, a Chinese doctor named Kada had performed surgical operations inducing anesthesia using a special formula. Kada's formula was, however, obscure, and did not appear to be effective for major operations. Referring to Kada's formula, Hanaoka performed much research to produce a better anesthetic drug, by selecting and combining various herbs. His wife, who participated in his experiments as a volunteer, lost her sight due to adverse side effects.

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