Joseph Thomas Clover was born in Aylsham, Norfolk on 28 February, 1825. At the time of his birth, surgery was an unpleasant and often fatal experience. But all that was about to change. When Joseph Clover began his apprenticeship in medicine in 1841, anaesthesia was just around the corner. Five years later, as a medical student at University College Hospital (UCH), he was to witness the first public demonstration of anaesthesia in Britain on 21 December, 1846(1). In 1848, he became the resident medical officer to UCH and commenced training as a surgeon. Over the five years that he held this position he was responsible for the administration of anaesthesia, giving around 1900 anaesthetics and 90% of the anaesthetics in the operating theatre. He left the hospital in late 1852 to set up in private practice as a surgeon.
In 1858, John Snow died. John Snow had been the leading anaesthetist in London and brought a level of professionalism to this new discipline which was extremely unusual. At the time, it was widely believed that anaesthesia could be administered by anyone - nurse, hospital porter, assistant surgeon - anyone with a spare pair of hands. But John Snow had made it a science, developing equipment, conducting research, presenting at meetings and writing extensively, including two books - one on ether anaesthesia(2) and one on chloroform(3). His death left a huge gap in the speciality and Joseph Clover gradually abandoned his fledgling surgical practice to become a full time anaesthetist, taking up most of John Snow's practice.
Clover made enormous contributions to anaesthesia, developing equipment, improving safety, teaching other practitioners and carefully anaesthetising many patients. His contribution is acknowledged by his inclusion in the Royal College of Anaesthetists crest in Britain . But, despite his fame amongst anaesthetists, his is not a household name. He left many papers, diaries and casebooks but they have been scattered around the world. He wrote many papers but a comprehensive list of these has never been compiled. A biography is planned but, in the interim, this site will acknowledge this extraordinary man, hopefully making Joseph Clover's life story and accomplishments more accessible.
1.Ball C. Joseph Clover's Casebook. In: Askitopoulou H, editor. History of Anaesthesia VII Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia. Crete: Crete University Press; 2012. p. 139-50.
2.Snow J. On the inhalation of the vapour of ether in surgical operations. London: John Churchill, Princes Street, Soho. ; 1847.
3.Snow J. On chloroform and other anaesthetics:their action and administration. Benjamin.W.Richardson, editor. London: John Churchill; 1858.