were still much oppressed. 1 determined therefore to make a more thor-
ough trial of ether vapor, and for that purpose went into my laboratory,
which adjoined my house in Somerset Street, and made the experiment
from which the discovery of anaesthesia was deduced. I had a large
supply of perfectly pure washed sulphuric ether (oxide of ethyle), which
was prepared in the laboratory of my friend Mr. John H. Blake, of Boston.
I took a bottle of that ether and a folded towel, and having seated myself
in a rocking-chair, placed my feet in another chair so as to secure a fixed
position as I reclined in the one in which I was seated. Soaking my
towel in ether I placed it over my nose and mouth, so as to allow me
to inhale the ether vapor mingled with air, and began to inhale the
vapor deeply into my lungs. At first it made me cough, but soon that irri-
tability ceased, and I noticed a sense of coolness followed by warmth,
fullness of the head and chest, with giddiness and exhilaration, numbness
of the feet and legs, followed by a swimming sensation as if afloat in
the air. This was accompanied with entire loss of feeling, even of contact
with my chair. I noticed that all sensation of pain had ceased in my
throat, and the sensations which I had were of the most agreeable kind.
Much pleased and excited, I continued the inhalation of the ether vapor,
and soon fell into a dreamy state, and then became unconscious of all
surrounding things. I know not how long I remained in that state, but
suppose that it could not have been less than a quarter of an hour, judg-
ing from the degree of dryness of the cloth which during the stage of
unconsciousness had fallen from my mouth and nose, and lay upon my
" As I became conscious, I observed that there was no feeling of pain
in my throat, and my limbs were still deeply benumbed, as if the nerves
of sensation were fully paralyzed. A strange thrilling now began to be
felt along the spine, but it was not in any way disagreeable. Little by
little sensation began to manifest itself, first in the throat and body, and
618 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
gradually it extended to the extremities; but it was some time before full
sensation returned and my throat became really painful.
" Reflecting on these phenomena, the idea flashed into my mind that
I had made the discovery I had for so long a time been in quest of â€”
a means of rendering the nerves of sensation temporarily insensible, so as
to admit of the performance of a surgical operation on an individual
without his suffering pain therefrom.
' That I did draw this inference, and did fuily declare my unqualified
belief both of the safety and efficiency of this method of destroying all
sensation of pain in the human body during the most severe surgical opera-
tions no one doubts, and it is fully proved by abundant legal evidence,
which has never been impeached or doubted in any quarter.
" I beg leave to refer you again to the evidence of Dr. William F. Chan-
ping, a man of science, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences, son of the late Dr. William E. Channing, our most eminent
divine ; to the testimony of Dr. S. A. Bemis, one of the most eminent
dentists ; to the letter of John H. Blake, Esq., a distinguished chemist,
and to the testimony of Mr. Henry D. Fowle, one of our best and most
faithful apothecaries. Their evidence with that of my worthy friend and
former pupil, Mr. Joseph Peabody, eleve ingenieur a l'Ecole des Mines de
France, prove that I had made this discovery long before any other per-
son had ever tried a single experiment of the kind.
" In the rapid operations of the mind, it is not always easy to trace
(in memory) the exact method of thought by which we suddenly arrive at
great truths; but so far as I can trace the reasoning that rapidly flowed
through my mind, it was based upon principles well understood by all
educated physicians and physiologists.
" I knew that the nerves of sensation were distinct from those of motion,
and of organic life, and that one system might be paralyzed without
necessarily and immediately affecting the others. I had seen often enough
in my medical practice, the nerves of sensation paralyzed without affecting
those of motion, and those of motion paralyzed without affecting those of
sensation, and both motion and sensation paralyzed without affecting the
ganglionic nerves or those of organic life.
" I knew, also, that the nerves of sensation are stationed as sentinels
near the exterior of our bodies, to warn us of danger from external causes
of injury, and that there is no feeling in the internal portions of our
bodies. I knew, also, that when the knife is applied in surgical opera-
tions, that there is little sense of pain in any parts beneath the skin (the
trunks of nerves only excepted). This my own surgical experience, as well
as that of others long since demonstrated, and the philosophy of those
physiological phenomena was made known to the medical world by Charles
Bell, Majendie, and other eminent anatomists and physiologists in Europe.
" Having confided my discovery to twelve of my friends, most of whom
ETHER, 1846 619
are gentlemen devoted to science, and some of them physicians and
dentists, I considered it safe, so far as priority of discovery was concerned.
1 1 was my intention to revisit Europe, and to bring out this discovery
in the great hospitals of Paris, where I felt confident I should be treated
with courtesy and fairness ; but I was at the time actively engaged in the
Geological Survey of the State of New Hampshire ; and while my Report
was in press, was called upon to explore the wilderness of Lake Superior
land district, for copper mines, so that I had not a month that could be
spared for a voyage to Europe. Hence my procrastination."
Jackson then introduced a second claim, namely, that Mor-
ton acted as a "nurse" under his directions. He says : "Under
these circumstances, I employed a dentist, a nominal medical
pupil of mine, Mr. W. T. G. Morton, to make a trial of my
discovery, in dental surgery, which he consented to do, if I
would take the entire responsibility. This I did at once before
two of my chemical pupils*." This was the Eben H. Frost
case previously related. "I then engaged this dentist to go to
Dr. John C. Warren, and ask him to test the ether in a more
severe operation, at the Hospital. The reason why I did not
go in person, was that I was at that time engaged in chemical
work for others, which could not be left. I proposed to see
Dr. Warren a few days afterwards, as I did. Mr. Morton
did as directed, and came at once and reported to me that
'Dr. Warren had consented to try the experiment' * * *
I was not informed when the trial of the ether was to be made
at the Hospital, and it was done the next day, without notify-
ing me that T might attend and witness the effects." This
was the October 16th test. Then follows an accusation that
Morton did not tell Warren he had been sent by Jackson, and
of Morton's secrecy about the nature of the agent used. He
relates Warren's request that he come to the Hospital to
administer the ether, as he did "not like to have such a quack-
ish fellow as Morton about the Hospital." This request Jack-
son was not able to fulfill, as he was about to leave for Mary-
* George O. Burner and James Mclntire.
620 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
land, but he "would fully instruct Morton and send him to
administer the ether." Jackson further states that he in-
formed Warren of the nature of the "compound" used by
Morton. Jackson did not attend an operation under ether
until November 21st, 1846, and again on January 2, 1847;
a part of this time he was absent from the state. He wrote
a letter to the Academy of Science of France under date No-
vember 13, 1846, but did not mail it until December 1st, being
assured by Morton that "all should be set right", if he would
wait. This first letter for the Academy was in part as fol-
" Boston, 13th November, 1846.
" I ask permission to communicate, through you, to the Academy of
Sciences, a discovery which I have made, and which I believe to be import-
ant for the relief of suffering humanity, and of great value in surgical art.
It is five or six years since I noticed the peculiar state of insensibility
into which the nervous system is plunged by the inhalation of the vapor
of pure sulphuric ether, which I inhaled in large quantities, first for experi-
ment, and afterwards when suffering from a severe inflammation, caused
by the inhalation of chlorine. 1 have recently made use of this fact, by
inducing a dentist of this city to administer the vapor of ether to persons
whose teeth he was about to extract. It was observed that these persons
did not suffer any pain during the operations, and that no inconvenience
resulted from the administration of ether.
" I next urged this dentist to go to the Massachusetts General Hospital,
and administer the ether vapor to a patient who was to undergo a painful
surgical operation. The result was, that the patient did not feel the least
pain, and did well afterwards. An operation near the jaw, the amputation
of a limb, and the excision of a tumor were the subjects of the first sur-
" Since then numerous surgical operations have been performed, on
different patients, with like success, and always without pain. The patients
have convalesced well, not having suffered any nervous shock.
" I desire that the Academy of Sciences will have the goodness to
appoint a commission to make the necessary experiments, in order to
prove the exactitude of the assertions which I address to you, concerning
the remarkable effects produced by the inhalation of ether vapor.
"One may very conveniently breath this vapor, by dipping a lar^c
sponge in ether, placing it in a short conical tube, or in a funnel, and
drawing the atmospheric air into the lungs, through the sponge thus satu-
rated with ether. The air may be ejected by the nose, or valves may be
ETHER, 1846 621
placed on the tube or funnel, so that the breath may not traverse the
sponge and weaken the ether by aqueous vapor.
" At the end of a few minutes the patient falls into a very peculiar
state of sleep and may be submitted to any surgical operation without
his feeling the least pain; his pulse becomes generally a little more rapid,
and his eyes shine, as from the effect of a peculiar excitement. When
he recovers from this state, in a few minutes, he will say to you that
he has been asleep and has dreamed.
" Ordinarily weak (alcoholic) ether will not produce the proper effect.
The patient will only be made drunk by it, and will suffer headache after-
wards. We should use, therefore, only the most highly rectified ether.
" If a dentist extracts teeth in the evening, he should employ a Davy
safety lamp, for a naked flame might cause an explosion if brought near
" In the administration of ether vapor it is important to have it in
large volume, so that it may be inhaled freely and produce its effects
promptly, because we thus avoid all disagreeable sensations; but there is
no danger to be feared from prolonged inhalation of ether vapor, provided
that atmospheric air also is properly admitted. In prolonged operations
we apply the ether vapor several times, at proper intervals, so as to keep
the patient in this (ethereal) sleep.
Charles T. Jackson.
Jackson had a wide acquaintance among the scientists of
Europe, and his friend and former teacher, M. Elie de Beau-
mont, became his champion before the French Academy. Pres-
ident Bonaparte soon bestowed the Cross of the Legion of
Honor upon Jackson as the discoverer of ether.
During the year 1847-48 the controversy between Morton
and Jackson was waged bitterly, as the following documents
'To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress Assembled:
' Your petitioner, William T. G. Morton, respectfully represents, that he
is a dentist in the city of Boston ; that in the year 1846, and for several
years previously thereto, he was in the prosperous and lucrative practice
of his profession in that city ; his actual annual receipts from his business,
as his accounts will show, being between nine and ten thousand dollars.
' That his occupation obliging him to see frequent instances of frequent
suffering, he was, as many others had been, induced to consider whether
there might not be some means of alleviating such sufferings, and render-
ing operations less painful to those obliged to submit to them.
622 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
" That, in pursuance of this object, he examined such known and ap-
proved treatises on materia medica as he could obtain, and consulted with
the most learned persons to whom he could get access, but found the
scientific knowledge on this subject wholly vague and unsatisfactory; that,
nevertheless, he continued the investigation, and, gathering all the infor-
mation he could, was led, step by step, after many examinations and
experiments, to the belief that sulphuric ether, properly administered,
might produce partial if not total insensibility ; that, desirous to verify
his belief by actual experiment on the human system, and finding the idea
prevalent among the scientific that any application which would be pro-
ductive of such effects would be injurious to health, if not fatal to life,
he made the experiment upon himself, and, after an unconsciousness of
several minutes, awoke with no injury to health; that, thus confirmed
in his views, he proceeded, against much opposition and amidst many
obstacles, until at last, in the presence of the most eminent surgeons and
physicians of a public institution, and on a public occasion, he was enabled
to manifest the truth of his conception, and exhibited a patient submitting
to an amputation of a leg, without the slightest sentiment of pain, or the
least injury to general health in consequence of the application which
produced this insensibility.
' Your petitioner would further state, that, interested in the investiga-
tions which resulted in this discovery, he devoted himself exclusively to
them, to the neglect of his ordinary and regular business, in consequence
of which his practice became almost entirely lost to him ; that his experi-
ments and the various arrangements and preparations which the calls upon
him from all parts of the country, as well as from foreign countries,
obliged him to make, and which a belief in the validity of his patent
induced him to suppose would not be unrequited, were very expensive, and
involved him deepiy in debt ; that the patents which he obtained, though
legally valid, were in fact wholly valueless in a pecuniary sense; and
that he finds himself now, after all his outlays, exertions, and endeavors,
with his practice greatly abridged, his reputation injured by the efforts of
those who opposed with great warmth the introduction of his discovery;
his health impaired by mental anxiety and over-exertion : himself reduced
to poverty, embarrassment, and pecuniary distress; and probably the only
being living who has been a sufferer from a discovery which enables the
world to rejoice in an exemption from many sufferings.
' Your petitioner states only facts which are well and widely known.
He therefore respectfully prays your honorable body, that â€” considering
the nature of the discovery ; the benefit which it confers, and must con-
tinue to confer so long as nature lasts, upon humanity ; the price at which
your petitioner effected it, in the serious injury to his business; the detri-
ment to his health ; the entire absence of any remuneration from the
privileges under his patent, and that it is of direct benefit to the govern-
ETHER, 1846 623
merit, by its use in the army and navy â€” you should grant him such relief
as might seem to you sufficient to restore him at least to that position
in which he was before he made known to the world a discovery which
enables man to undergo, without the sense of pain, the severest physical
trials to which human nature is subject.
" And your petitioner will ever pray, &c.
" Wm. T. G. Morton."
" To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States
in Congress Assembled :
' The undersigned begs leave to represent, that, whereas a memorial
has been presented to the Congress of the United States by William
Thomas Green Morton, of the city of Boston, in the State of Massachu-
setts, representing that in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hun-
dred and forty-six, he, the said Morton, made, in the city of Boston afore-
said, a discovery by which the human body is rendered insensible to pain
during surgical operations, and during other serious and violent affections,
by means of the vapor of sulphuric ether inhaled into the lungs, â€” praying
also for a national remuneration or reward for making the said discovery,
and for its practical application ; and whereas the said discovery was made
by the undersigned, without the knowledge of the said Morton, and with-
out the co-operation or assistance of any person whomsoever, and was
communicated by the undersigned to various persons, from the spring and
autumn of eighteen hundred and forty-two to the thirtieth day of Septem-
ber, eighteen hundred and forty-six inclusive, and on the said thirtieth
day of September was also communicated by the undersigned to the said
Morton, he, the said Morton, being previous to the said communication
of the discovery to him, wholly ignorant of the anaesthetic properties and
effects of sulphuric ether aforesaid ; and whereas the undersigned did also,
on the thirtieth day of September, eighteen hundred and forty-six, devise
and commit to the said Morton the performance of an experiment for the
verification of the said discovery, so far as the extracting of teeth is
concerned ; and whereas the said Morton, acting in strict conformity with
the instructions and upon the exclusive and expressly-assumed responsi-
bility of the undersigned, did, to the extent of a painless extraction of a
tooth, successfully verify the said discovery ; and whereas the under-
signed did, shortly afterwards, cause the discovery to be further verified
by the surgeons of the Massachusetts General Hospital, in the first pain-
less capital operation ever performed under the influence of the ether-
vapor; and whereas the signature of the undersigned to certain letters-
patent, taken out in the joint names of the undersigned and of the said
Morton, declaring the discovery to be their joint invention, was obtained
through the representation of Robert H. Eddy, Esq., of said Boston, the
solicitor by whom the said letters-patent were procured, and copartner
with the said Morton in the profits thereof, that the undersigned 'might
624 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Jose all his credit as a discoverer,' if he did not consent to become a party
to the said letters-patent ; and whereas the undersigned, after being
instructed by eminent legal counsel that the said Morton had not ren-
dered himself in any sense a joint discoverer, by reason of the painless
extraction of a tooth as aforesaid, and that he had not thereby acquired
any right either to an exclusive patent or to participation with the under-
signed in any patent upon the said discovery, did publicly repudiate all
connection with the said letters-patent, and did refuse any part of the
proceeds arising from the sale of licenses under the same ; and did, as
he originally intended, give the discovery freely to the world, to the full
extent of his interest ; evidence of all which is herewith submitted. The
undersigned does, therefore, earnestly remonstrate against the memorial
of the said Morton, and prays that his petition may not be granted ; and
that there may not be, on the part of the Congress of the United States,
any recognition whatever of his claims to the said discovery.
" Charles T. Jackson."
" Washington, D. C, Jan. 29, 1849."
' To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States
of America, in Congress Assembled."
" The undersigned, Physicians and Surgeons of the Massachusetts Gen-
eral Hospital, beg leave to represent, â€”
' That, in the year 1846, a discovery was made in the city of Boston,
by which the human body is rendered insensible to pain, during surgical
operations, and during other serious and violent affections, by means of
the vapor of ether inhaled into the lungs.
' That a patent for this discovery was taken out by two citizens of
Boston, by whom the first satisfactory experiments on the prevention of
pain by this means had been made ; and the first capital operations, con-
ducted under the influence of this agent, were performed in the Massa-
chusetts General Hospital by the surgeons of that institution.
" That the success of this method of preventing pain has been abundantly
and completely established by a hundred and fifteen operations performed
in said Hospital during the last year, and by a still greater number out of
it in the city of Boston.
" And, in all cases within the knowledge of the undersigned, it has
greatly mitigated, or wholly prevented, the pain, when skillfully adminis-
tered, and in no case has any fatal or disastrous consequence followed
its use within their observation; and although inconveniences and tempo-
rary disturbances of the nervous system have sometimes followed its
application, yet these are exceptions to a general rule, and are not more
common than those which result from the employment of other powerful
medicinal agents, and are incomparably less distressing than the evils they
are employed to obviate.
4 The undersigned have reason to believe, that, since the introduction
ETHER, 1846 625
of this process, some thousands of persons have inhaled ether, in Boston
and its vicinity, with impunity and benefit; that its value is already
recognized, and its employment into most parts of Europe ; that the use
of the process ought to be, and by judicious arrangements probably will
be, extended into all parts of the United States ; and that no discovery
in medical science, during the present century, has relieved as much
suffering, and conferred so great a. benefit on humanity, as the discovery
of the power and application of ether.
" The undersigned are aware, that the power of ether to produce insensi-
bility, and even death when improperly used, was known in Europe many
years ago. They are also aware that other aeriform bodies have been
experimented on, and the vapor of ether itself unsuccessfully tried, by
other individuals, in surgical operations ; but they are satisfied, that the
safety of the process, and the effectual mode of applying it, were first
made known in Boston in 1846.
'' Understanding that the use of this important discovery is now restricted
by letters patent granted from the office of the Secretary of State, and
believing that it is the policy of wise governments to diffuse among their
constituents the blessings of such discoveries as tend to alleviate human
suffering, and, at the same time, to reward those who have conferred such
benefits upon the world, â€” the undersigned respectfully pray, that such
sums as shall be thought adequate may be paid by the government of the
United States to those persons who shall be found, on investigation, to
merit compensation for the benefit conferred on the public by this dis-
covery, and on condition of the relinquishment by them of any patent
right they may hold restricting its use.
(Signed) "John C. Warren. " H. 1. Bowditch.
" Jacob Bigelow. " O. W. Holmes.
" Geo. Hayward. " J. Mason Warren.
"Enoch Hale. " Samuel Parkman.
" S. D. Townsend. " Henry J. Bigelow."
" John D. Fisher.
"Boston, Nov. 20, 1847."
The authorities of the Massachusetts General Hospital ap-
pointed a committee to consider the whole question. Their
conclusions were these :
" 1st. Dr. Jackson does not appear at any time to have made any dis-
covery, in regard to ether, which zvas no! in print in Great Britain some
"2nd. Dr. Morton, in 1846. discovered the facts before unknown, that
ether would prevent the pain of surgical operations: and that it might be
given in sufficient quantity to effect this purpose, without danger to life.
626 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
He first established these facts by numerous operations on teeth, and
afterwards induced the surgeons of the Hospital to demonstrate its gen-
eral applicability and importance in capital operations.
" 3rd. Dr. Jackson appears to have had the belief, that a power in ether