The Ether Story

Prior to anesthesia, the best surgeon was the fastest surgeon. The first operation under anesthesia was performed in 1846. Dr. Horace Wells, a young dentist, after watching a laughing gas demonstration, decided to experiment on himself. Wells inhaled nitrous oxide then had a colleague pull one of his own wisdom teeth. It was accomplished without pain. Wells then contacted William T. G. Morton, a dentist in Boston who arranged a demonstration using the ether, to Dr. John Warren of Mass General Hospital. The experiment appeared to have failed when the patient screamed. The patient later admitted he had felt no pain. Fortunately, Dr. Warren gave ether a second chance, which was successful. You can see where anesthesia was first used if you visit Boston—go to Mass General Hospital and ask to see the Ether Dome.