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A: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Discovery of Surgical Anesthesia

10/16/1846 to 11/18/1846
The reprint of Bigelow's paper
This is a separate reprint of Bigelow's paper that Bigelow had done for private circulation. In the reprint the main text was reset, and the final seven controversial paragraphs referring to Jackson and Morton’s proposed patent have were omitted. The offprint was also repaginated, [309]-316, and the paper used was inferior to the journal issue, hence the browning in most surviving copies.

American surgeon Henry Jacob Bigelow published "Insensibility during Surgical Operations Produced by Inhalation," Boston Medical  and Surgical  Journal XXXV, no. 16 (November 18, 1846): 309-17.

This was the first formal announcement of the discovery of surgical anesthesia, probably the greatest medical discovery made in America during the nineteenth century. The Boston dentist W. T. G. Morton, after experimenting with ether anesthesia in his dental practice, obtained permission from John Collins Warren, chief of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, to attempt anesthesia on a surgical patient. On October 16, with Morton administering the ether, Warren successfully removed a portion of a vascular tumor from the neck of his patient. The following day, Morton again administered ether to a patient undergoing an operation to remove a fatty tumor from her arm. At this point the surgeons at Massachusetts General refused to employ Morton’s “Letheon” any further unless Morton revealed its exact nature—which he had hitherto kept secret in the hopes of patenting it—and allowed its free use at the hospital.

On November 6, on the advice of Henry J. Bigelow, Morton at last divulged that his “Letheon” was in fact sulfuric ether. On November 7, Morton administered ether to a patient undergoing amputation of the leg; with the success of this operation, “the value of ether as an anesthetic was established once and for all.”  Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine, 64A. Wolfe, Tarnished Idol,  75-83. 

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