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History of Anaesthesia in Australia

Launceston doctor, William Russ Pugh, and Sydney dentist, John Belisario, were the first medical practitioners to use anaesthesia in Australia, having built ether inhalers based on a diagram outlined in a newspaper.

Subsequently, on June 7 1847, Pugh successfully performed two operations using ether anaesthesia, while Belisario performed two dental surgeries.
However, Rupert Walter Hornabrook was the first physician in Australia to devote his medical career solely to the growing field of anaesthesia.
After an adventurous early career which ranged from service in plague hospitals in India to the Boer War in South Africa, he was appointed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1909.

Hornabrook was a colourful character and a vigorous campaigner for the recognition of anaesthesia as a branch of medicine in its own right.
His work in anaesthesia included popularising the use of the ethyl chloride-ether sequence in the early 1900s, which were significant improvements on chloroform and closed inhalers that were the norm.

In 1934, the ASA was formed as a not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to supporting, representing and educating Australian anaesthetists. The inaugural meeting took place at Hadley’s Hotel in Tasmania in January 1934, with founding members including Dr George Leonard Lillies, Dr Gilbert Brown, Dr Cedric Duncombe, Dr Gilbert Troup, Dr Harry Daly, Dr Ivor Hotten, and Dr Geoffrey Kaye.

Since its establishment, the ASA has played a crucial role in advancing the field of anaesthesia in Australia, supporting anaesthetists, and contributing to the development of safe and effective anaesthetic practices.

Established in 1934, the Australian Society of Anaesthetists is a peak not-for-profit representative body of anaesthesia in Australia.

ASA acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work. We pay our respects to the elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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