Pioneers: Arthur E. Guedel, MD, 1883 - 1956
Arthur Guedel was born in Cambridge City, Indiana on June 13, 1883 and attended grade school in Indianapolis. Although his family was unable to afford to send him to high school, he managed to continue his education on his own, under the guidance of a high school teacher. Despite his lack of a formal high school education, he passed an entrance examination and was admitted to the Medical College of Indiana in 1903. He graduated from medical school in 1908, as a first honors student, interned for six months at City Hospital in Indianapolis, and then set up his first office for general practice in 1909.
Guedel became interested in anesthesia during his internship, when he was required to administer ether and chloroform. He subsequently built up his anesthesia practice by making his services available to Indianapolis area hospitals. Dr. Guedel served in the American Expeditionary Forces in France as an anesthesiologist in World War I, training orderlies and nurses to administer anesthesia. To enable these paraprofessionals to accurately assess depth of anesthesia, Guedel created a guide, in the form of a wall chart, to the stages and physical signs of ether anesthesia. This was the first systematic classification of these physical signs and came to be widely used throughout the world.
After the war and a year in Minneapolis, Guedel returned to Indianapolis. He resumed the private practice of anesthesia but also began designing and improving on such basics of anesthesia equipment as pharyngeal airways and cuffed endotracheal tubes. He was to pursue this "sideline" (along with writing and research) throughout the rest of his career.
Guedel moved to California in 1928 and shortly thereafter became clinical professor of anesthesia at the University of Southern California, while also continuing the private practice of anesthesia in Los Angeles. In 1937 the first edition of his textbook Inhalation Anesthesia was published, greatly enhancing the teaching of this subject to medical students.
In 1941, after being forced by ill health into retirement the year before, Guedel became the first American to be awarded the prestigious Hickman Medal for original work in anesthesia, by the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
Dr. Guedel was married for nearly fifty years to Florence Dorothy Guedel. They had two daughters: Marian Guedel Hart and Gretchen Guedel Shuman (who died at age 26 in 1940). Dr. Guedel died in Los Angeles in 1956.