Ether as Anesthesia: Thank You, William Morton

Dentist William Morton Uses Ether as Anesthetic. Image courtesy of examiner.com.

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

September 30, 1846

Dentist, William Morton, was the first to publicly use ether to anesthetize a patient in Boston. His bold step eventually lead to the widespread use of ether for surgical anesthesia.

Morton’s first successful public demonstration of ether as an inhalation anesthetic was such an historic and widely publicized event that many consider him to be the “inventor and revealer” of anesthesia. However, Morton’s work was preceded by that of Georgia surgeon, Crawford Williamson Long, who used ether as an anesthetic four years earlier.

Although Long demonstrated its use to physicians in Georgia on numerous occasions, he did not publish his findings until 1849, in The Southern Medical and Surgical Journal. These pioneering uses of ether were key factors in the medical and scientific pursuit now referred to as anesthesiology, and allowed the development of modern surgery.