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    Pioneers of Anesthesia

    The Guedel Center Archive has been gifted with the records of a number of well-known individuals who were influential in the development of anesthesia as an important branch of medicine.

    Arthur E. Guedel, MD 1883-1956

    Portrait of Dr. Arthur E. Guedel Biography
    Arthur Guedel was born in Cambridge City, Indiana on June 13, 1883. He graduated from Medical College of Indiana 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. 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 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, 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 died in Los Angeles in 1956.

    Dr. Guedel's archival materials include correspondence with notable anesthesiologists such as Dr. Ralph Waters, Dr. Paul Wood, Dr. John S Lundy Dr. William Neff, Dr. Chauncey D Leake, Dr. Richard Foregger; Correspondence with Medical Societies; Correspondence with the companies who manufactured his inventions such as Ohio Chemical and Manufacturing Co, Obstetric Gas Apparatus Co, MacMillan Co; Biographical materials, Family history, Personal correspondence, Reprints of his many articles and Unpublished papers.



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    Richard C. Gill

    Richard Gill in the AmazonBiography
    Richard Cochran Gill was born in 1901 in Washington DC, the son of a physician. He earned his BA in English from Cornell University in 1929. His inquiring mind and wanderlust led him to Ecuador where he and his wife Ruth built the Rio Negro Ranch. He became friendly with the local natives & studied their customs, particularly the jungle pharmacopoeia including curare.

    Gill became ill with multiple sclerosis-and was almost totally paralyzed. Back in the United States for treatment, his neurologist mentioned curare as a possible treatment- if only there was enough of it to study seriously. The idea of going back to the jungle to bring back a treatment for spastic muscle diseases galvanized him into 4 hard years of physical therapy, after which he walked back into the jungle. During that four years he trained himself technically in medicine, pharmacology, botany, ethnobotany & any related useful fields.

    Finally in 1938 Gill was able to go back to Ecuador. His expedition took 100 people and tons of equipment into the jungles of the Pacayacu-Sarayacu region of Ecuador around the Rio Pastaza. He brought back 25 pounds of crude curare. He also brought back ~75 other botanical specimens of potential use. He was ahead of his time- the drug companies didn't have the vision to realize the value of his finds. The curare he brought back was purified and tested for a number of uses but turned out to be most useful as part of surgical anesthesia as a muscle relaxant.

    During his expedition Gill filmed the trek and the process of making curare. On his return to the United States he wrote a book about the expedition and showed his movie on the lecture circuit to raise money for another expedition. They are both titled "White Water and Black Magic." He also wrote a number of other books about the people of the Ecuadorian jungle. Mr. Gill established a lab in Palo Alto, California to develop improved methods of purifying curare. He died on July 7, 1958.

    The Richard C. Gill Curare Collection contains photographs, slides, correspondence, field notes, magazine articles and his film- White Water & Black Magic. The artifacts collection includes crude curare, the utensils for its production and the containers for its use and storage. It also has blowguns with darts and arrow cases as well as personal adornments made from beads, feathers, hair and beetle wings.



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    Ralph Waters, MD

    Portrait of Dr. Ralph WatersArchival Materials include correspondence with Dr. William Beaumont Memorial Foundation, Dr. F.W. Clement, Dr. G.G. Dondall, the Foregger Company, Dr. E.I. & McKesson Appliance Co.McKesson, Dr. Frank H. McMechan, Dr. Harold Myers, Miscellaneous Correspondence, Ephemera, Reprints.









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    Abram Elting Bennett, MD

    Archival materials include correspondence with many anesthesiologists and medical associations and reprints.

    Dr Bennet's collection also includes a treasure trove of of material about curare, Richard C. Gill and the Gill-Merrill Ecuadorial Expedition.

    • First Administration of Curare in California

    • Correspondence: Gill, Mr. Richard C.: 1938-1953 and misc

    • Non-Bennett Gill correspondence

    • Curare tablets: initial case history tabulation

    • Curare bibliography

    • Reprints: Richard C. Gill and Ruth Gill

    • Reprints: Miscellaneous

    • Laminated drawings: plant sources of curare

    • Squibb publications re: curare

    • Ephemera

    • Rotenone

    • Avelina Rosada

    • Leche de Oje

    • Annatto

    • Hacienda Rio Negro Dude Ranch

    • Gill-Merrill Ecuadorial Expedition 1938-39

    • Specimen data

    • Misc. curare notes/information

    • Misc. scientific notes

    • Misc. business notes

    • Misc. correspondence

    • Curare papers/reprints

    • Reprints: Richard C. Gill

    • Bibliographies

    • Bennett papers (collected by Gill)

    • Case Histories - Extended Tabulations

    • FDA Investigator's Form 1952-53

    • OJE Samples and Shipments

    • OJE Preliminary Technical Data

    • Data Required on Application for Tubalex

    • Transmucosal Curarization

    • Ephemera



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    William Neff, MD

    Archival Materials include correspondence, reprints, photographs, diplomas and certificates.



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    Margaret Blumenfeld, MD 1897-1975

    Blumenfeld Memorial WindowThis is the text of the commemorative plaque explaining the memorial stained glass window located in the Guedel Center.

    Memorial to Margaret Blumenfeld, MD 1897-1975

    Who was Dr. Margaret Blumenfeld and why is there a memorial window to her in the Guedel Center? She was a fine anesthesiologist and a truly unique person who had many ties to the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, she followed her brother, Serge, into medicine and graduated from the Women's Medical College in St. Petersburg with distinction. The Russian Revolution marked the start of her world-wide journey. First she went to France, where her brother Joseph was working in Pierre & Marie Curie's lab. Next was Shanghai, where she joined her brother Serge in his successful medical practice. Fatigue and hemoptysis led to the diagnosis of oat cell carcinoma in San Francisco. She returned to Shanghai, without having surgery, to continue her deceased brother's practice.

    A year later, still active and practicing with characteristic vigor, she returned to San Francisco for re-evaluation. Surgery then revealed a non-malignant bronchial adenoma. This experience led to a new interest in anesthesia. Although she returned to Shanghai, her time there was brief. She fled in 1948 just ahead of the invading communists, to San Francisco and a career in anesthesiology.

    She had difficulty obtaining a medical license because her medical school, now Leningrad University, refused to release her records. Special positions in anesthesia were made for her by Dr. William Neff, Chair of the Division of Anesthesia at Stanford. Finally, she obtained a medical license in New York, through the influence of her California friends who included many prestigious medical men. She did and anesthesia residency at Albany Medical College under Dr. Marcel Harmel and then passed both the American College and American Board of Anesthesiology exams, being the oldest candidate to sit for these examinations. She later followed Dr. Harmel to the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and was attending anesthesiologist at the Kings County Medical Center.

    Plagued by renal problems, she became ill while on a trip to San Francisco and spent the rest of her life here. She died on June 8, 1975.

    Dr Blumfeld left an imperishable impression with all who knew her She had a special regard for a young people in training. The richness of her language and her ability and judgment became legendary. Her attention and care, not only professionally but personally, to all who came in contact with her, created a bond and relationship that was unique in every way. She celebrated life. All who knew her loved her and none will ever forget her.

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