In 1798 Dr Withering from Birmingham wrote to Dr Duncan a letter giving an account of a convenient method of inhaling the vapours of volatile substances, it was published in Annals of Medicine for 1798.
He describes a glass vessel (crudely illustrated) small enough to fit in the hand. Volatile substances such as radical vinegar are introduced into the glass vessel and the warmth of the hand is sufficient to encourage the substances to volatilise. The vessel is put to the mouth and the vapour inhaled. He lists other suitable volatile medicines, including; vapour of aether, aqua ammoniae and spirit of hartshorn. For less volatile substances he recommends that the vessel be rested upon a cup of hot water.
Dr Withering goes on to discuss the Mudge device, and attributes the word ‘inhaler’ to the late Mr Mudge. He identifies some difficulties in using the Mudge inhaler and suggests the use of a large jug partly filled with hot water, with lumps of quick-lime added from time to time to maintain the production of vapour. He advocates the use of nitrous vapour as a treatment for typhus.