4. For the Relief of Unbearable Pain: The Discovery of Anesthesia

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Even in today’s world of high-tech medicine, where the traditional skills of medicine are increasingly lost to the convenience of digital sensors and gadgets, it’s surprising how few physicians rue—or even remember—the lost art of nut-cracking.

It’s a shame, because if you happened to have a knack for that sort of thing—the amount of force required to crack open various nuts based on the hardness of their shells—you might just have the skill needed to be anesthesiologist in the dark ages of medicine. For, as one ancient prescription directed: Place a wooden bowl on the patient’s ...

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