The Japanese physician Seishu Hanaoka devoted his life to creating a general anaesthetic so that patients could undergo pain-free surgery.

It took Hanaoka 20 years of research to create the right anaesthetic formula using a combination of drugs derived from poisonous plants used in Chinese medicine. When he believed he’d arrived at a safe dose he tested the formula on his wife. Unfortunately he had miscalculated the dose and she went blind as a result.

However, Hanaoka persisted and found an effective combination made up of angel’s trumpet and Japanese monkshood. The active ingredients in this formula were atropine and scopolamine, substances which are still used today as sedatives and muscle relaxants.

Hanaoka went on to perform over 150 breast cancer surgeries in Japan and is now widely considered to be the father of anaesthesia.