Joseph Robinson's home and workplace

A Blue Plaque remembers that pioneer dentist and anaesthetist James Robinson lived and worked in this house in London (14 Gower Street). He moved here in 1840, "perhaps already married to Anne Elizabeth Webster" and "here he developed over the next twenty years a large and prestigious practice [as a dentist] which attracted a clientele that included 'persons of the highest rank'"1.

On the Thursady 17 december 1846, news of the first surgical operation with ether carried on 16 October in Boston reached Francis Boot, an expatriate American Physician who lived just down the road from Robinson in Gower Street. He commented the news to James Robinson and some days later wrote to the Lancet that "…on Saturday, the 19th, a firmly fixed molar tooth was extracted in my study from Miss Lonsdale, by mr Robinson, Dentist of Gower Street, in the presence of my wife, two of my daughters, and myself, without the least sense of pain, or the movement of a muscle. The whole process of inhalation, extracting, and waking, was over in three minutes"2.

This was the first ever anaesthetic administered in Britain (not in Europe, because in France the first anaesthetic had been administered on 15 December 1846)3. "On 21 December, having observed Robinson and Boot in action in other cases over the weekend, Robert Liston performed the first general surgical operation under ether [in Europe] at University College Hospital, the removal of a leg"4.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (July 2011)

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