There is neither human drama nor technical information in this incohesive cut-and-paste survey of the development of anesthesia. Curtis details at random the circumstances surrounding the discovery or isolation of hypnosis, morphine, ether, chloroform and cocaine, as well as odd facts about the discoverers' lives (Morton, researching ether, was waited on in the bookstore by John Bartlett of later Quotations fame) and deaths (reported in a monotone that makes them all seem a bit bizarre), but the various controversies, feuds, and moments of discovery have no thrust or excitement as catalogued here. Worse, the methods and materials are never described chemically or defined in any satisfactory way nor is their effect on patients explained. The chapter on early use of morphine never mentions how it was administered, the discussion of local anesthesia by injection concentrates on cocaine, current practices are slighted or ignored, and instead of supporting background there are some irrelevant anecdotes about Paracelsus and a synopsis of circulation theory from Galen to Harvey. Impressive as is the progress from strong men (to hold the patient down) to extra-corporeal cooling of the blood, surgical pain relief remains a promising subject in search of its Berton Roueche.