March 30, 2015

It Happened on March 30th

Pencil with Eraser Patented, 1858

Lipman's patent didn't hold up in court.
Graphite pencils had been around since the 16th century, but it was only in 1858 that the first pencil/eraser combination tool was patented. The inventor was Hyman Lipman, who later sold his patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000.

In 1875 Reckendorfer sued the manufacturer Faber for violation of this patent. The Supreme Court ruled that since pencils had already existed, and erasers had already existed, Lipman's invention was not sufficiently unique to warrant a patent. Reckendorfer lost.

Lipman's invention might be a little different than you're picturing it. The eraser was actually enclosed in the wood, at the other end of the pencil. When you needed more eraser, you just sharpened that end.

Anesthetic First Used in Surgery, 1842

Crawford Long
I think that most of us today would agree that anesthetic during surgery is a good thing, but public opinion wasn't quite so unequivocal in the mid-19th century. Some people believed that pain during surgery was God's way of cleansing us. Others believed that relief from pain during such procedures wasn't possible. Still others accused the practitioners of witchcraft.

The first known use of anesthetic was by Crawford Long, when he used sulferic ether during a operation to remove a cyst on the neck of patient James M. Venable. Venable was unconscious during the operation, claimed to have suffered no pain afterwards, and paid Long $2 for the operation.

Long had participated in "ether frolics" during his college days -- parties at which the participants inhaled nitrous oxide of sulfuric ether for recreational purposes. Apparently, this gave him the idea that the gases could be used during surgery.

He kept his experiment quiet for awhile, not publishing his results or claiming credit for his discover. In December of 1946 a Boston dentist announced that he had used ether as an anesthetic, and Long decided it was time to publicize his findings. He wrote up his account of the operation, and obtained affidavits from his patients to establish his claim.

Crawford Long had two other claims to fame, as well. In college he had shared a room with Alexander Stephens, who would later become Vice President of the Confederate States of America. Also, Long was a cousin of John Henry ("Doc") Holliday.

And this was just for dental work, folks! Re-enactment (a few days later) of first public demonstration of anesthesia.

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