I’m standing in the Bulfinch amphitheater at Mass General, also known as the Ether Dome. This is the location where on October 16, 1846, William Morton, a dentist from Hartford, Connecticut carried out the public demonstration of use of ether as an anesthetic. Morton administered ether to a Edward Gilbert Abbot, a patient of Dr. John Collins Warren so that Dr. Warren could remove a tumor from Mr. Abbott’s neck.

This demonstration transformed surgery from a traumatic experience to humane therapy. This was not the use of ether as an aesthetic, however. That took place in 1842 and was carried out by Crawford Long in Atlanta. Long didn’t publish the results until 1849. In contrast, by the December of 1846, use of ether as an aesthetic had already spread to England. Morton’s discovery gave birth to the field on Anesthesiology and forever changed the practice of medicine.

Emery Brown, MD, PhD: Medicine transformed