The Science and Philosophy of Consciousness
Published in Consciousness.
Consciousness is one of the unsolved mysteries that great thinkers across many disciplines have attempted to elucidate. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines consciousness simply as “the quality or state of being aware.” Yet the true definition of consciousness has eluded great minds for centuries. Several attempts at defining consciousness have been made by philosophers, physicians, psychologists, neuroscientists, and scientific researchers.
One way to unravel the mystery of consciousness is to examine its opposite—the state of unconsciousness. A person can become unconscious through general anesthesia, a medically induced coma. The origins of applied anesthesia in humans in the Western Hemisphere is a brief and relatively modern history. Liquid ether was identified by Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) in 1540 to induce sleep in animals, however it was not until centuries later in 1842 when American surgeon Dr. Crawford Williamson Long first used diethyl ether, a gas, as anesthesia on humans. Long later published his discovery in 1849.