Chloroform for the king? Joseph Clover, Henry Thompson and the King of the Belgians

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review


In May 1863 the British surgeon, Henry Thompson, departed for Belgium to attend Leopold, King of the Belgians. The King was in agony: he had suffered with bladder stones for months and multiple procedures, without anaesthesia, had failed to relieve his symptoms. Henry Thompson was therefore consulted about the possibility of operating under the influence of chloroform. He could see no objection if the chloroform were given by an experienced administrator such as Mr Clover "who indeed was generally believed at that day to have no equal". History records that the successful operation was performed under chloroform anaesthesia administered by Joseph Clover. But a letter from Henry Thompson, discovered in Clover's personal papers, raises a number of questions about this operation. This was the procedure that made Henry Thompson rich and famous, but was it actually performed under anaesthesia? And if not, why not?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalAnaesthesia and Intensive Care
Issue number4 (supplement)
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Chloroform
  • Henry Thompson
  • Joseph Clover
  • Kind Leopold

Cite this