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Books, Journals, New Media
March 13, 2002

Anesthesia HistoryTarnished Idol: William Thomas Green Morton and the Introduction of Surgical Anesthesia: A Chronicle of the Ether Controversy

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 2002;287(10):1327-1328. doi:10.1001/jama.287.10.1327-JBK0313-2-1

"Gentlemen, this is no humbug." John Warren, MD, of Boston, Mass, had just performed an operation in which the patient remained immobile and insensible to surgical pain. For patients and physicians of the 21st century, surgery without pain is expected, it is the norm, and deviations from this standard are not tolerated. However, Warren practiced in 1846 and witnessed the first public demonstration of ether's use in amelioration of surgical pain.

William Thomas Green Morton, a Massachusetts native, administered the ether he called Letheon to Eben Frost on October 16, 1846. Morton's life is exhaustively studied in Tarnished Idol: William Thomas Green Morton and the Introduction of Surgical Anesthesia, by Richard J. Wolfe.

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