Henry Edmund Gaskin Boyle

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Henry Edmund Gaskin Boyle OBE (2 April 1875 – 15 October 1941) was a pioneering anaesthetist best remembered for the development of early anaesthetic machines.

Early life[edit]

Born in Barbados, he was the only child of Henry Eudolphus Boyle, estate manager and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Benjamin Law Gaskin, a member of the House of Assembly.[1] He moved to England in 1894 after schooling at Harrison College, Bridgetown.[2]

Professional life[edit]

Boyle qualified MRCS LRCP in 1901 from St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. He worked as a junior anaesthetist at Barts and was appointed visiting consultant in 1903.[2] During World War I he worked with the Royal Army Medical Corps in London, publishing over 3600 cases anaesthetised with nitrous oxide-oxygen-ether.[3] His work was recognised with an OBE.[2]

Boyle promoted intratracheal insufflation techniques using nitrous oxide, oxygen and ether, replacing open-drop anaesthesia. Initially he used imported Gwathmey[disambiguation needed] machines from the USA,[2] but finding them unreliable, he developed his own continuous-flow machines. His design included cylinders for the gases and a "Boyle's Bottle" to vaporize diethyl ether. Until recently, an anaesthetic machine was often referred to as a "Boyle's Machine" in honour of his contribution. Dr. Boyle was a left-hander and anaesthetic machines available all over the world were initially designed with controls and switches meant for left hand use until the 1950s when components were revised to suit right hand use.[4]

His other contributions to anaesthesia include the Boyle-Davis gag (still used today during tonsillectomy operations) and a popular textbook, Practical Anaesthetics (1907[5] and two subsequent editions).


He was president of the Section of Anaesthetics of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1923, a founding member of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland and an early examiner for the Diploma in Anaesthesia. Since 2000 the department at St Bartholomew's Hospital has been named the Boyle Department of Anaesthesia.[1]


  1. ^ a b Wilkinson, David J. (September 2004). "Boyle, Henry Edmund Gaskin (1875–1941)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d Maltby, J. Roger. Notable Names in Anaesthesia. Royal Society of Medicine. ISBN 978-1-85315-512-3. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  3. ^ Wilkinson, David J. (2002). "Henry Edmund Gaskin Boyle (1875 – 1941)". History of Anesthesia by José Carlos Diz, Avelino Franco, Douglas R. Bacon, Joseph Rupreht, Julian Alvarez. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 978-0-444-51293-2. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Describing A Latent Design Cycle In 100 Years Of Innovation And Adoption In Anesthesia Equipment: The Origin Of Awkwardness
  5. ^ Boyle, H. Edmund G. (1907). Practical Anaesthetics. H. Frowde / Hodder & Stoughton. Retrieved 20 February 2009.