Today in Science History – March 30 – National Doctors’ Day

Crawford Long
Crawford Long (1815 – 1878)

March 30 is National Doctors’ Day in the United States. The day is meant to be set aside to appreciate physicians and their work helping their patients and communities. The holiday became an official holiday in 1991.

The holiday began in Winder, Georgia in 1933 by a doctor’s wife, Eudora Brown Almond. She proposed a day should be set aside to appreciate doctors by sending cards to all the doctors she knew and placing flowers on the graves of deceased doctors. The flower she chose was a red carnation. This flower is still used today in association with Doctor’s Day.

She chose March 30 because it was the anniversary of the first use of anesthesia during surgery. In 1842, another Georgia doctor named Crawford W. Long used diethyl ether during an operation to remove a tumor from the neck of his patient. After this success, he began using ether for his other surgeries and even began incorporating its use for his obstetrics patients during childbirth. He eventually published his experiences in the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal in 1849.

The delay of announcing his discovery cost him the credit of the discovery. Doctor William T. G. Morton administered ether to a patient in 1846. Dr. Morton had the added benefit of performing this surgery in one the largest hospitals in Boston in front of an audience. Long attempted to prove his priority but did not manage to accomplish it before he died in 1878. In 1879, the National Eclectic Medical Association credited Dr. Crawford with the first use of anesthesia.

The use of anesthesia is a good reason to appreciate they efforts your doctor puts forth to keep you healthy.  Thank yours today!

Notable Science History Events for March 30

1965 – Philip Showalter Hench died.

Philip Showalter Hench
Philip Showalter Hench (1896 – 1965)

Hench was an American physician who, together with Edward Kendall, started to treat rheumatoid arthritis with the adrenal hormone cortisone. The pair with Tadeus Reichstein investigated further adrenal gland hormones and their effects, earning them the 1950 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

1954 – Fritz Wolfgang London died.

London was a German-American physicist who pioneered quantum chemistry. He described the effects of intermolecular dipole forces and created a mathematical representation of the hydrogen molecule. He also developed a model with his brother Heinz to describe the electric fields around superconductors due to current.

1949 – Friedrich Bergius died.

Friedrich Bergius
Friedrich Bergius (1884 – 1949)
Credit: B. Schmitz-Sieg

Bergius was a German chemist who shares the 1931 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Carl Bosch for their work using high-pressure methods. Bergius developed a method to hydrogenate coal dust under high pressure to create gasoline and lubricating oils known as the Bergius process.

1911 – Ellen Swallow Richards died.

Ellen Swallow Richards
Ellen Swallow Richards (1842 – 1911)

Richards was an American chemist who pioneered Home Economics study in the United States. She was also the first woman to be admitted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was America’s first woman to hold a degree in Chemistry and would later become MIT’s first female instructor.

1876 – Antoine Jérôme Balard died.

Antoine Jérôme Balard
Antoine Jérôme Balard (1802 – 1876)

Balard was a French chemist who isolated and identified the element bromine. He was conducting a general investigation of seawater when he found the previously unknown element in seaweed and several marine animals.

1863 – Auguste Bravais died.

Auguste Bravais (1811 - 1863)
Auguste Bravais (1811 – 1863)

Bravais was a French physicist best known for his mathematical models of crystal structure called Bravais lattices. Bravais lattices are made up of 14 unique arrangements in three dimensions. His work would eventually be verified by x-ray crystallography techniques.

Bravais’ Law deals with the symmetry of faces in crystal structures. It states a crystal faces are planes that intersect lattice points and are more developed when they intersect a larger number of lattice points.

1842 – Ether used as an anesthetic for the first time.

1783 – William Hunter died.

William Hunter
William Hunter (1718 – 1783)

Hunter was a British physician and teacher who initiated the practice of obstetrics as a branch of medicine and out of the hands of midwives. He also created an anatomy school and became one of the foremost medical instructors of his time.

239 BC – First recorded observance of Halley’s Comet.

Halley's Comet
Halley’s Comet from a 1910 photographic plate.
European Space Agency

Halley’s Comet was the first comet to be recognized as a periodic event, returning to the skies every 75 years. Backtracking through records of comet observations, mention of a comet was found in the Shih Chi and Wen-Hsien Thung Khao chronicles by Chinese astronomers which would be attributed to Halley’s Comet.