AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Epstein, Hans Georg (1909-2002)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/HGE
Held at: Wellcome Library
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Epstein, Hans Georg (1909-2002)
Date(s): 1906-2002
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 16 boxes
Name of creator(s): Epstein | Hans Georg | 1909-2002 | medical researcher
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Hans Georg Epstein was born in Berlin on the 25 April 1909. He was educated in Switzerland and Bavaria but returned to Berlin where he studied for a doctorate in physics from the Department of Physical Chemistry at Berlin University, gaining the 'very rare distinction' (Ref.: PP/HGE/A/B/6) of summa cum laude in 1934.

In the late 1930s, Dr Epstein, also known as 'Eppy' or 'Ep' to work colleagues and friends, moved to England and worked briefly in London before moving to Oxford to pursue his scientific research. It was in Oxford that Epstein began specialising in research and development in the field of anaesthesia. He was employed at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford at the suggestion of the first Nuffield Professor of Anaesthetics, Sir Robert Macintosh who was keen to develop new forms of ether inhaler, ether being the principle anaesthetic of the day.

With the outbreak of war, in 1939, Epstein was taken on by the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics to help develop a portable yet reliable inhaler that could be used on the battlefield where access to oxygen cylinders and anaesthetic gases was not possible. It was also essential that individuals with no medical training could safely and effectively use the apparatus. The resulting product was the Oxford Vaporizer, which was manufactured by the Lord Nuffield-owned Morris Motors Ltd and used by allied troops across the world (Ref.: PP/HGE/C/A/5, copy of letter from Sgt Alex Hood, 1943).

During the war Epstein helped to develop other products, such as life jackets for airmen, but his principal interest and expertise lay in the research and development of anaesthetic inhalers. In 1956, the Epstein Macintosh Oxford (EMO) inhaler was released, superseding the Oxford vaporizer. The EMO was a more sophisticated yet simpler apparatus that used internal bellows to maintain a constant flow of gases. A later version, known as the EMOTRIL (which used Trichloroethylene), was specifically developed for analgesia in obstetrics.

Through the 1950s and 1960s Epstein continued his research and development of anaesthesia inhalers, building himself a global reputation as a leading expert in this field. His inhalers harnessed the latest anaesthesia agents, such as Halothane: an example was the Oxford Miniature Vaporizer (OMV), a version of which found use during the Falklands conflict in 1982 (Ref: PP/HGE/C/A/4 Times newspaper clipping).

Epstein's research was often accompanied by a personal interest in the historical development of the subject concerned. His papers include many items that show an interest in the historical developments in anaesthesia, as well as a wider interest in topics such as the history of scientific research into resuscitation (Ref: PP/HGE/H/1 and PP/HGE/H/2). During his time at Oxford, Epstein developed a reputation as an informative and entertaining lecturer. He was given many invitations to speak on a range of anaesthesia topics; however, most memorable were his lectures and demonstrations on the subject of anaesthetic explosions.

Epstein also found time to research and co-write Physics for the Anaesthetist. It was hailed as a seminal resource in the field of anaesthesia and three editions were published between 1946 and 1963. However, delays in publishing a fourth, revised edition were blamed on Epstein and led to him being ejected from the project in 1982 (Ref: PP/HGE/E/A/2), much to his dissatisfaction. The fourth edition was eventually published in 1987, though Epstein remained bitter as to the amount of credit attributed to himself and Lord Nuffield within this edition (Ref: PP/HGE/E/A/3 draft letter to Per Saugman).

Epstein spent the latter years of his working life, and part of his retirement (until the mid 1980s) conducting anaesthesia research tests for the medical apparatus manufacturer Penlon. Retirement also allowed Epstein to pursue his interests outside of science, including cycling and food and wine connoisseurship. Dr Hans Epstein died in Oxford on 1 August 2002.


Scope and content/abstract:

Hans Epstein papers including on anaesthesia and inhalers, 1906-2002. Within Epstein's papers is a large amount of correspondence with work colleagues and companies employed to manufacture his inhalers. Occassionally, Epstein kept copies of the out letters he sent, however, their retention appears to be more of a random occurance than one based on a considered filing scheme. The correspondence covers a wide range of topics (usually related to the field of anaesthesia) which include Epstein giving advice on certain subjects, being invited to lecture at specific events, discussing inhaler designs and test result data (of both his own products and those of others). Also existing is a significant amount of correspondence on various aspects of the book Epstein co-wrote, Physics for the Anaesthetist. Correspondence related to Epstein's own education is also included.

Also relating to Epstein's research and development activities are a number of laboratory notebooks and loose papers which record, amongst other things test results of various anaesthetic inhalers and anaesthetic gases. Epstein also kept notebooks in which he wrote out general maths, physics and chemical equations and formula, often citing who discovered the relevent information/data and when.

Amongst the papers are large amounts of published material. The majority are journal articles, written by third parties, which covered current and historical developments in anaesthesia or focussed on the development of specific anaesthesia apparatus. Epstein also compiled a set of research papers, journal articles and information on the specific subject of the history of resuscitation. The collection also includes material related to World and European Congresses of Anaesthesiologists attended by Epstein, including invitations, travel arrangements and congress itineries. Epstein also retained invitations to lecture and lecture notes as well as details (invoices) of a variety of work-related expenses incurred during his career.

Other papers include those related to Epstein's work with Penlon, a medical apparatus manufacturer as well as papers related to Sir Robert Macintosh (Epstein's boss at Nuffield). The Penlon section includes correspondence between Epstein and Penlon and inhaler test data from tests conducted by Epstein for Penlon. The Macintosh section includes documents concerning Sir Robert's 90th birthday and his obituary.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The papers have been divided into twelve sections that reflect Epstein's activities, but remain in the original order imposed by Epstein. It appears that Epstein developed this order sometime after many of the papers were created. Evidence for this is suggested by: a note made by Epstein in 1999 (now in the accessions folder) that shows he was systematically arranging papers into specific folders; folders being given numerous different file titles and files containing papers that span many decades despite the file itself being quite thin, suggesting that Epstein removed a lot of items he did not want to keep or considered not worth keeping.
The twelve sections are:
A Correspondence
B Laboratory notes
C Subjects
D Penlon
E Physics for the Anaesthetist F Lectures/Conferences/Congresses
G Publications
H Resuscitation history
J Sir Robert Macintosh and the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics
K Expenses
L Files of assorted papers related to anathesia
M Photographs and drawings

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

This material was presented to the Wellcome Trust as a gift in perpetuity by Vera Epstein, the widow of Dr Hans Epstein on the 12 March 2003.

Allied Materials

Related material:

In the Wellcome Library: The personal papers of Sir Robert Macintosh, the first Nuffield Professor of anaesthetics (PP/RRM).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2009

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"