I have a couple of those....
This, known affectionately as the “
Ether Monument,” consists of a statue and a fountain; it’s planted in the Public Garden near the corner of Arlington and Beacon streets in . Boston, Massachusetts
It commemorates the first successful public demonstration of the use of ether as an anesthetic on October 16, 1846 at
. Massachusetts General Hospital
It was exactly one hundred years before I was born.
I remember going to see this monument when I was about six or seven and still lived in the
area. My grandfather – William W. Howell, a pediatrician and Boston graduate (Class of 1900) – thought that, since I was (firstly) a doctor’s grandchild and (secondly) born on the 100th anniversary of this event, it was only proper that I be familiar with the monument. Harvard Medical School
He told me that, before ether, many people actually died during surgery – not from the surgery itself, but from the pain of surgery! Ether changed the course of modern medicine, he told me; it saved lives, it allowed for new medical procedures.
I really didn’t care about the ether business; I was mostly fascinated by the beasts carved on the lower panels of the monument!
William Thomas Morton (1819-1868), an American dentist, first learned of the effectiveness of ether in 1844 from his Harvard Medical School chemistry lecturer; he dabbled in experiments (probably using his dental patients and/or himself as guinea pigs), but it wasn’t until 1846 that a truly public demonstration occurred at Massachusetts General Hospital – Dr. John C. Warren painlessly removed a tumor from the neck of a patient who had been anesthetized by the administration of inhaled ether.
Later, William Morton joined the Union Army during the Civil War; he used ether to help more than two thousand wounded soldiers in several battles, including the dreadful Wilderness Campaign.
Interestingly, one of the other soldiers who served in the Wilderness was William W. Howell’s father – my great-grandfather, Selah Howell – who drove an ambulance for the Sanitation Commission.
I wonder if they ever met.
The monument was designed by William Robert Ware, a
architect. The sculptor was John Quincy Adams Ward (now there’s a solid Boston name!). It’s about forty feet tall. Boston
"To commemorate that the inhaling of ether causes insensibility to pain," it reads. "First proved to the world at the
Mass. General Hospital in , October A.D. MDCCCXLVI." Boston
Just think: A monument dedicated to a medical breakthrough that occurred exactly one hundred years before I was born.
I’m honored to share the date.
(Be sure to visit other Sepians: http://www.sepiasaturday.blogspot.com)