Ether Dome interior as seen from top middle seats

The Ether Dome

This room, originally called the “surgical amphitheater,” was the hospital’s first operating room. More than 8,000 operations were performed here between 1821 and 1867. It gained the name “Ether Dome” after the first successful public demonstration of surgical anesthesia took place here on October 16, 1846. Mass General co-founder and head surgeon John Collins Warren, MD, agreed to allow dentist William T.G. Morton to conduct a demonstration of a chemical he said could conquer pain during surgery. The chemical was sulfuric ether, and he demonstrated it on a patient who had a growth on his neck. Warren operated, and the patient reported that he felt his neck had been scraped, but the procedure didn’t hurt. Warren proclaimed to the doctors who were watching that this new idea was “no humbug.” After a new operating room was built in 1867, this room was repurposed. It was used as a nurses’ dorm, a nurses’ dining hall, and for storage. Today, the room is a multipurpose meeting space.