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MGH History

1868 Ether Monument in Boston Public Garden. Source

Ether Websites & Publications

On October 16, 1846, MGH co-founder Dr. John Collins Warren removed a small tumor from the neck of Gilbert Abbott after an anesthetic agent provided by Boston dentist William T. G. Morton had been used. This was the first successful public demonstration of the use of ether as an anesthetic agent.

Many articles, books, and book chapters have been written about this event, and several films have been made. All histories of MGH include information about the use of ether.

For more information:

See Finding More on MGH History and Websites & Publications.

Selected websites and videos:

The Advent of Anesthesia” 1933 (YouTube video) produced by the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company, featuring MGH physicians. The film is described in detail.

Anesthesia History Milestones

History of Anesthesia -- 1846, Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology (WLM), Schaumburg, IL Includes full-text links to books and articles

History of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital (YouTube video)

The Origins of Anesthesia: Items from the Anesthesia Collections

“Strange Magic of the Enchanted Goblet” from the Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library

"We have conquered pain." A Celebration of Ether 1846-1996

Selected books, book chapters, journals, and journal articles:

The Anesthesia History Association Newsletter (1982-1995) and the Bulletin of Anesthesia History (1995-2013) are available from the Anesthesia History Association. Scroll down to Past Issues. They are continued by the Journal of Anesthesia History (2015-).

Dental Cosmos, a Monthly Record of Dental Science (published 1859-1936) contains many articles about early use of ether, with links to full text. 

Bigelow, H. J. Insensibility during surgical operations produced by inhalation. Boston Med Surg J 1846; 35:309-317.

Bowditch, Nathaniel I. The Ether Controversy. Vindication of the Hospital Report of 1848. Boston: John Wilson, 1848. 

Warren, John Collins. Etherization: With Surgical Remarks. Boston: Ticknor, 1848.

The Ether Discovery. IN: Bowditch, Nathaniel I. A History of the Massachusetts General Hospital (to August 5, 1851). Boston : J. Wilson & Son, 1851.

Historical Memoranda Relative to the Discovery of Etherization, and to the Connection with it of the Late Dr. William T. G. Morton. Prepared by the Committee of Citizens of Boston Chosen to Raise a Morton Testimonial Fund. Boston: Rand, Avery, & Frye, 1871.

Massachusetts General Hospital. The Semi-Centennial of Anaesthesia October 16, 1846-October 16, 1896. Boston: [n.p.], 1897.

Viets HR. The Earliest Printed References in Newspapers and Journals to the First Public Demonstration of Ether Anesthesia in 1846. J Hist Med Allied Sci. 1949;4(2):149-69. PubMed PMID: 18145588.

Vandam LD. The last days of William Thomas Green Morton. J Clin Anesth. 1996 Sep;8(6):431-4. PubMed PMID: 8872680.

Moore FD. John Collins Warren and his Act of Conscience: A Brief Narrative of the Trial and Triumph of a Great Surgeon. Ann Surg. 1999 Feb;229(2):187-96. PubMed PMID: 10024099; PubMed Central PMCID:PMC1191630.

Fenster, Julie M. Ether Day: The Strange Case of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men who Made it. [Contact MGH Archives for use] New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Wolfe, Richard J. J Tarnished Idol: William Thomas Green Morton and the Introduction of Surgical Anesthesia : A Chronicle of the Ether Controversy. [Contact MGH Archives for use] San Francisco: Norman Pub., 2001.

"This is no humbug!" : Reminiscences of the Department of Anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital : A History, edited by Richard J. Kitz, Hassan Ali ... [et al.]. [Ashland, Ohio : Atlas Books, 2003?]. (Note: slow to load; works best in non-IE browsers)

Ortega, Raphael A. Written in Granite : An Illustrated History of the Ether Monument. [Contact MGH Archives for use] Boston: Plexus Management, 2006.

Warshaw AL. Ether Day, 1846, Revisited. Surgery. 2006 Sep;140(3):472-3. PubMed PMID: 16934612.

LeVasseur R, Desai SP. Ebenezer Hopkins Frost (1824-1866): William T.G. Morton's first identified patient and why he was invited to the Ether demonstration of October 16, 1846. Anesthesiology. 2012 Aug;117(2):238-42. PubMed PMID: 22728779.

Haridas RP, Bause GS. Correspondence by Charles T. Jackson containing the earliest known illustrations of a Morton ether inhaler. Anesth Analg. 2013 Nov;117(5):1236-40. PubMed PMID: 24029852.

Haridas RP, Mifflin JA. Researches regarding the Morton ether inhaler at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Anesth Analg. 2013 Nov;117(5):1230-5. PubMed PMID: 24036621.

Haridas RP. "Gentlemen! This Is No Humbug": Did John Collins Warren, M.D., Proclaim These Words on October 16, 1846, at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston? Anesthesiology. 2016 Mar;124(3):553-60. PubMed PMID: 26566280.

Sundararaman LV, Desai SP. The Anesthesia Records of Harvey Cushing and Ernest Codman. Anesth Analg. 2018 Jan;126(1):322-329. PubMed PMID: 29099433.