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Article
May 25, 1994

Robert C. Hinckley and the Recreation of the First Operation Under Ether

Author Affiliations

Pittsburgh, Pa

 

by Richard J. Wolfe, 182 pp, with illus, $20, Boston, Mass, Boston Medical Library, 1993.

JAMA. 1994;271(20):1623-1624. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510440085042

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Abstract

The title doesn't quite capture what the reader finds between the covers. Mr Wolfe has written a detective story about the origin of Robert C. Hinckley's 8-×-10-foot painting of the first ether anesthesia. The narrative is based on historical facts and embroidered with a portrait of the artist—his life and times. It is difficult to imagine today the enormity of the event that occurred on October 16, 1846, in a building that shall evermore be known as the Ether Dome. Surgery without pain! That it took place in Boston—and at the Massachusetts General Hospital—was a source of great local pride and notoriety. This exhaustively researched treatise has 120 pages of text, 26 illustrations, and a 45-page appendix containing an extensive bibliography. The index is comprehensive.

This demonstration of ether anesthesia by James W. Morton, a Boston dentist, occurred before Oliver Wendell Holmes applied the word "anesthesia" in this setting and

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