Cobalt and Cocaine Mixture

1. A. Koelliker & Co. Ltd, Zurich
2. De Trey and Co Ltd
Circa 1890
Cocaine was discovered by Albert Niemann, a German chemist, who isolated it from the leaves of the coco bush found in South America. Doctors in Europe and the USA soon began exploring its analgesic properties, and in 1884 Dr William Halsted, a New York surgeon, extracted a mandibular tooth from a patient who felt no sensation of pain throughout the procedure.

Cocaine was quickly adopted in dentistry as a rapidly acting, but relatively short lived analgesic. It could be applied topically to the mucous membranes of the mouth, or injected, depending on the procedure. However the drug had significant side effects, such as provoking an increased heart rate, elevating blood pressure and causing an irregular heart beat. There was also a very real risk of addiction, particularly among the professionals who administered it. Therefore the development of alternative drugs having analgesic properties without so many hazardous side effects became a priority. This led to the formulation of procaine and its introduction in 1905. In the following century procaine in turn was superceded by even better, safer drugs.
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Object detail

Circa 1890
cardboard, paper, ink, cotton wool
7.0 x 3.0 cm
Accession Number
Object Type
Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum Category


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