William Russ Pugh


'People of importance in their day', in Melbourne: Dr Pugh is third from right (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

William Russ Pugh (180697), medical practitioner, credited with administering the first surgical anaesthetic in the southern hemisphere. Pugh received instruction in Edinburgh and Dublin, and in 1835 set up practice in Launceston. An enthusiastic experimenter, he produced coal gas to light his house, and the ether for his anaesthetics. On 7 June 1847 he performed two operations at St John's Hospital, removing a tumour from a woman's jaw and cataracts from a man, under ether anaesthesia. That day he wrote an account of the procedures for the Australian Medical Journal. The ether was administered from apparatus derived from a diagram in the Illustrated London News, following the first surgical use of ether in Boston in October 1846. Pugh moved to Melbourne in 1854. He is commemorated by a bronze statue in Launceston.

Further reading: G Wilson, One grand chain, 1, Melbourne, 1995; and 'William Russ Pugh', LHS Occasional Papers 4, 1997.

Eric Ratcliff