Science, Technology and Discoveries

Hanaoka Seishu

A stamp depicting the image of Hanaoka Seishu.
Hanaoka Seishu (1760-1835), Japanese physician and pioneer of anesthetic surgery. Hanaoka studied traditional Sino-Japanese medicine, as well as what was then known about Western surgery in Japan. For over two decades he experimented with various drugs. Ultimately he created mafutsusan, an anesthetic compound made from six traditional plant-based drugs, including the alkaloids aconite (from the monkshood plant) and datura (from jimsonweed). In 1805, using mafutsusan as an anesthetic, Hanaoka removed a tumor during breast cancer surgery. This was the world's first recorded successful surgical operation with anesthesia. Later, Hanaoka used the drug for other surgical operations, developing techniques for bladder stone removal and for amputation. Hanaoka attracted many students, and his surgical techniques became known as the Hanaoka method.