About this artwork

An Edinburgh doctor specialising in pregnancy and childbirth, James Young Simpson is famous for his discovery of the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic. At the time, many believed that the pain suffered at childbirth was sanctioned by God. Simpson, however, believed that the relief of pain should be a central concern of medical professionals. Although ether had been trialled during surgery, its use had certain disadvantages. Whilst searching for a substitute, in 1847 Simpson and his assistants inhaled a sample of chloroform, and their immediate collapse convinced them of its effectiveness as a sedative and painkiller. This small photograph of Simpson, in ‘carte de visite’ format, was produced specifically for a photography collection – a common hobby in the mid-nineteenth century.

John Moffat

John Moffat

John Moffat's family moved from Aberdeen to Edinburgh when he was seven years old. His first business dealt in engraved and chalk/crayon portraits. In 1853 he set up his photographic studio in Princes Street where it remained for more than a hundred years. He was principally a portrait photographer, but he also produced stereoscopic photographs. Apart from being a successful businessman, he was also an amateur painter and musician and had eight children, of whom several were as multi-talented as their father.