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History of Chloroform

Chloroform was discovered in July of 1831 by an American chemist named Samuel Guthrie. He mixed whiskey with chlorinated lime while trying to find a cheap but effective pesticide know as Dutch Liquid (C2H4Cl2). Even though the liquid contained properties of Dutch Liquid, it is believed that Guthrie found liquid Chloroform. The liquid that Guthrie made was extremely sweet causing people to call it “Guthrie’s Sweet Whiskey”. Then a few months later Eugène Soubeiran, a French chemist, and Justus von Liebig, of Germany, also found forms of chloroform. Soubeiran produced chloroform by dropping chlorine bleach powder on top of acetone or ethanol. This caused a generic process of a haloform reaction, which is when haloform (CHX3) is produced by halogenations of a methyl ketone. Chloroform, however, was named and chemically described by a French Chemist named Jean-Baptiste Dumas in 1834. That same year Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens noted that chloroform could be used as an anesthetic. The first use of chloroform was used during childbirth by the Edinburgh obstetrician James Young Simpson in the year 1847. Later chloroform flooded into the surgical fields replacing ether. However, surgeons and doctors quickly returned to the use of ether due to the fact that chloroform was found extremely toxic. The use of Chloroform caused what is called “sudden sniffer’s death” or cardiac arrhythmia. Cardiac arrhythmia is the speeding up or slowing down of the heart. These muscle contractions can cause sudden death. They tried to derive other antistatic from chloroform, such as Trichloroethylene, but these proved to be cancerous.


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