to prevent pain in dental operations would be discovered. He advised vari-
ous persons to attempt the discovery. But neither they nor he took any
measures to that end; and the world remained in entire ignorance of both
the pozver and safety of ether, until Dr. Morton made his experiments.
"4th. The whole agency of Dr. Jackson in the mailer appears to consist
only in his having made certain suggestions, which led or aided Dr. Mor-
ton to make the discovery, â€” a discovery zvhich had for some time been
the object of his labors and researches."
LETTER TO DR. MORTON.
" Boston, May 12, 1848.
" Dear Sir: At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts
General Hospital, a few weeks since, it was formally suggested, that a
limited subscription of a thousand dollars shall be raised for your benefit,
in acknowledgement of your services in the late ether-discovery; no one
to be asked to subscribe more than ten dollars. We consented to act as
a Committee to receive and apply the proceeds of this subscription. The
proposed sum having been obtained, we have now the pleasure of trans-
mitting it to you. We also enclose the subscription-book in a casket
which accompanies this note. Among its signatures you will find the
names of not a few of those most distinguished among us for worth and
intelligence;* and it may be remarked, that it is signed by every member
of the Board of Trustees.
' You will, we are sure, highly value this first testimonial, slight as it
is, of the gratitude of your fellow-citizens. That you may hereafter receive
adequate national reward is the sincere wish of your obedient servants,
" Samuel Frothingham.
â€¢<t r> wrir t r a/t f Â» " Thos. B. Curtis."
To Dr. William 1 . G. Morton.
dr. morton's reply.
" Boston, May 15, 1848.
"Gentlemen: I need hardly say, that your communication of the 12th
*Josiah Quincy, Jr., Abbott Lawrence, S. A. Eliot, Amos Lawrence,
William Appleton, J. I. Bowditch. R. G. Shaw, Charles Amory. William
Sturgis, John Bryant, J. A. Lowell, Thomas Dwight, Theodore Lyman,
F. H. Bradlee, Robert Hooper, Charles Jackson, James Jackson, Marcus
Morton, G. C. Shattuck, George Hayward, Thomas Lee, J. C. Warren,
W. H. Prescott, Rufus Choate, William Ropes, C. F. Adams, Daniel Web-
ster, John Homans, R. H. Dana, Augustus Thorndike, Russell Sturgis,
H. H. Hunnewell, J. P. Higginson, and about thirty others.
ETHER, 1846 627
inst., and the accompanying casket, subscription-book, and donation, have
been received by me with gratification of no ordinary degree.
" Apart from the positive value of the gifts, the kind feeling which
has led to this manifestation on the part of so many of the first citizens
of Boston has affected me in a manner that I am not likely soon to forget.
The circumstances in which I have been placed for some time past give
them an additional value; and by my children the testimonial will be
appreciated hardly less than by myself.
" In recognizing among the names those of each of the Trustees of the
Massachusetts General Hospital, I am bound to acknowledge this renewal
of my indebtedness to that institution. It was the first to receive, verify,
sustain, and promulgate the ether-discovery ; and, from the earliest, I have
received from its officers, surgeons, physicians, and trustees, nothing but
constant courtesy, liberality, and kind consideration.
" Allow me to acknowledge your personal kindness in acting as a
Committee for the purposes of subscription, and the tasteful manner in
which you have given to it an endearing value and significance.
" You are pleased to speak of my services as deserving a national
reward. I am glad to have your concurrence and sympathy in this opin-
ion ; and it is not unknown to you, that, if received, it would be to me,
not only a reward, but an -indemnification and relief.
" Respectfully, your obliged and obedient servant,
" William T. G. Morton."
' To Messrs. Samuel Froth ingham and Thomas B. Curtis."
Morton's remaining years were pathetic. After the failure
of the patent he tried to interest the Federal Government in
ether anaesthesia for military purposes, but the government
went on using it without regard to patent rights, and Morton's
licensees immediately held him accountable for their losses.
Lawsuits and litigations resulted only in failure for all these
unfortunates. Morton's appeal to Congress brought a recom-
mendation that a grant of one hundred thousand dollars be
made to him from the national treasury. Congress procras-
tinated, and finally, in 1854, Morton asked President Pierce
to intervene. Just as this step was about to bear fruit, the
Secretary of war, Jefferson Davis, advised the President to
recpiire, as a prerequisite, a suit and judgment against a gov-
ernment surgeon for using ether without compensation to the
patentee. Tn such a suit Morton was successful. Then came
628 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
a new administration, and the same course had to be pursued
again. This time the defendant was the New York Eye In-
firmary, and Morton was defeated. To add to his discom-
fiture the American Medical Association passed resolutions
of censure against him in the following terms :
" Whereas, In the appropriation bill now pending in Congress is a claim
donating to Dr. W. T. G. Morton, of Boston, the sum of two hundred
thousand dollars as a recognition of his services in introducing sulphuric
ether as an anaesthetic agent ; and
"Whereas, the said Dr. Morton, by suits against charitable medical
institutions for infringements of an alleged patent covering all anaesthetic
agents, not claiming sulphuric ether only, but the state of anaesthesia,
however produced, as his invention, has by this act put himself beyond
the pale of an honorable profession and of true laborers in the cause of
science and humanity ; therefore
" Resolved, That the American Medical Association enter their protest
against any appropriation to Dr. Morton, on the ground of his unworthy
conduct, also because of his unwarrantable assumption of a patent right in
anaesthesia, and further because private beneficence in Boston, New York,
Philadelphia, and other places has already sufficiently rewarded him for
any claim which he may justly urge.
" Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, if passed, be forwarded
to the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means."
Dr. Mauran, of Rhode Island, moved the adoption of both
resolutions, which were carried.
These resolutions were passed by a "snap vote" just before
final adjournment, and as one reads the proceedings of that
convention he can but feel regret. A question of this mag-
nitude, one which had taxed the maturer judgment of scien-
tific men in Europe and this country should not have received
such hasty action.* Morton's suit was undertaken as a test
* The temper of this meeting is shown by the following incident : J. C.
Warren, a delegate to the Association, carried and distributed upon the
seats a considerable number of printed circulars inviting a subscription
from any who would like to subscribe to a monument for Morton. On
his return to his room late in the evening he found these circulars care-
fully collected and placed upon his table. The next day the hall was
case by direction of the government. Foreign scientific bodies
were more liberal than the American Medical Association.
The order of Saint Vladimir was bestowed on Morton by
Russia ; the Order of Vasa by Sweden ; and from France came
AWARD OF THE FRENCH INSTITUTE.
" In March, 1850, the French Institute pronounced an award in the
matter of the ether-disccvery. The first prize of medicine and surgery,
for the years 1847 and 1848, was decreed to Messrs. Jackson and Morton
jointly. The language of the award is as follows: ' Mr. Jackson and Mr.
Morton were necessary to each other. Without the earnestness, the pre-
conceived idea, the courage, not to say the audacity of the latter, the fact
observed by Dr. Jackson might have long remained unapplied ; and, but
for the fact observed by Mr. Jackson, the idea of Mr. Morton would
perhaps have been barren and ineffectual.' Two thousand five hundred
francs are therefore awarded to Mr. Jackson ' for his observations and
experiments on the anaesthetic effects of the inhalation of ether ' ; and the
same sum to Mr. Morton ' for having introduced this method into surgical
practice, pursuant to the suggestions of Mr. Jackson.' "
Few persons were better qualified to know the true situation
than Henry J. Bigelow. Here is a letter from him, written
while this matter was recent history:
" January 26, 1848.
"Dear Sir: I believe most fully that Dr. Morton deserves any reward
Congress may grant to the discoverer ; because, although many people
have thought that a man could be intoxicated beyond the reach of pain,
Dr. Morton alone proved this previous possibility to be a certainty, and
safe. A tabular form will make the matter plainer than words: â€”
Before October, 1846,
who made the sugges-
tion? Here is the only
ground of dispute.
Discovery in Octo-
ber, 1846. Consecutive
experiments by Mor-
After October, 1846,
Morton alone took
the responsibility of
danger and proved that
" The last two points, namely, the consecutive experiments, and their
confirmation, wdiich nobody denies to Morton, make him, in my eyes,
flooded with pamphlets advocating Well's claim as the discoverer of
630 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
the discoverer. The only doubt is as to who made the suggestion. To
me this is of no importance. Dr. Jackson says: 'I did. I told Mr.
Morton to try the experiment, and unless I had so told him he would
never have tried it.' Dr. Jackson adds : ' I first tried ether when I was
suffering from chlorine, in 1842. I afterwards recommended it to Mr.
Peabody.' But Dr. Morton confutes even these positions. He says to
Dr. Jackson : ' I show, by the evidence of Dr. Gould, Mr. Wightman,
and Mr. Metcalf, that I was experimenting with ether before the inter-
view in which you claim to have brought it to my notice. In 1842 you
only re-discovered what was before clearly in print in Pereira's Materia
Medica. You claim that you told Mr. Peabody what you knew of ether.
Now you could not know it. You have stated all your grounds of deduc-
tion, and the widest inference you could draw from them is a suspicion
of the properties of ether ; and a suspicion in science, an unconfirmed
theory, amounts to nothing. Finally what you claim to have discovered
in 1842 you kept to yourself four years. Do you expect the world to
believe you knew its value? Do you expect it to reward you for letting
people suffer during that length of lime? Besides, the suggestion of
anaesthetic agencies occurred to Davy ; especially was it followed out,
though unsuccessfully, by Horace Wells, who, disgusted with failure,
abandoned his attempts.' These and others had hypotheses as well as
Dr. Jackson. Morton alone proved the hypothesis. Without Morton
there is no evidence that the world would have known ether to the present
day. I believe this covers the ground of important argument and difference
in the pamphlets. .
" Respectfully your obedient servant,
" Henry J. Bigelow."
Morton died of apoplexy in New York, on July 15, 1868,
at the age of forty-nine. Jackson died insane in 1880. Let
me conclude this ether story with the familiar words of Oliver
Wendell Holmes, addressed to his class of medical students
in 1847 at the Harvard Medical School :
" Here almost within the present year, the unborrowed discovery first
saw the light, which has compassed the whole earth before the sun could
complete his circle in the zodiac. There are thousands who never heard
of the American Revolution, who know not whether an American citizen
has the color of a Carib or a Caucasian, to whom the name of Boston is
familiar through this medical discovery. In this very hour while I am
speaking how many human creatures are cheated of pangs which seemed
inevitable as the common doom of mortality ; and lulled by the strange
ETHER, 1846 031
magic of the enchanted goblet, held for a moment to their lips, into a
repose which has something of ecstasy in its dreamy slumbers.
"The knife is searching for disease, the pulleys are dragging back dis-
located limbs, nature herself is working out the primal curse which doomed
the tenderest of her creatures to the sharpest of her trials, but the fierce
extremity of suffering has been steeped in the waters of forgetfulness,
and the deepest furrow in the knotted brow of agony has been smoothed
1. " Insensibility during Surgical Operations, produced by Inhalation."
By H. J. Bigelow, M. D. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Nov. 18,
2. " The Inhalation of an Ethereal Vapor to prevent Sensibility to
Pain during Surgical Operations." By J. F. Flagg, M. D. Boston Medical
and Surgical Journal, Dec. 2, 1846.
3. " Inhalation of Ethereal Vapor for the Prevention of Pain in Sur-
gical Operations." By John C. Warren, M. D., &c. &c. Boston Medical
and Surgical Journal, Dec. 9, 1846.
4. " Insensibility during Surgical Operations, produced by Inhalation."
By H. J. Bigelow, M. D. (in reply to Dr. J. F. Flagg). Boston Medical
and Surgical Journal, Dec. 9, 1846.
5. " Inhalation of Ether." By J. Mason Warren. M. D. Boston Med-
ical and Surgical Journal, March 24, 1847.
6. Circular, by W. T. G. Morton, pp. 88. Boston, March, 1847.
7. " History of the Discovery of the Application of Nitrous Oxide
Gas, Ether, and other Vapors, to Surgical Operations." By Horace Wells.
pp. 26. Hartford, March, 1847.
8. " Some Account of the First Use of Sulphuric Ether by Inhalation
in Surgical Practice." By George Hayward. M. D. pp. 8. Boston,
9. " Discovery by Charles T. Jackson, M. D., of the Applicability of
Sulphuric Ether in Surgical Operations." By Martin Gay, M. D. pp. 48.
Boston, June, 1847.
10. " A Review of Dr. M. Gay's Statement of Dr. C. T. Jackson's
Claims to the Discovery, &c. &c." By J. B. S. Jackson, M. D. Boston
Medical and Surgical Journal, June 30, 1847.
11. "Some Account of the Letheon ; or, Who is the Discoverer?" By
Edward Warren, pp. 88. Boston, August, 1847.
12. " Mcmoire sur la Decouverte du Nouvel Emploi de l'Ether Sul-
furique ;" par W. T. G. Morton, de Boston, Etats Unis ; suivi des Pieces
Justificatives. pp. 60. Paris, 1847.
13. Report of the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts General Hos-
pital, presented to the Corporation at their annual meeting, Jan. 26, 1848.
14. " Account of a New Anaesthetic Agent as a Substitute for Sulphuric
632 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Ether in Surgery and Midwifery. By J. Y. Simpson, M. D., F. R. S. E.,
&c. pp. 24. Reprinted, New York, January, 1848.
15. "Reprint of the Report of the Trustees of Massachusetts General
Hospital, with a History of the Ether Discovery, and Dr. Morton's Memoir
to the French Academy." Edited hy R. H. Dana, jun. ; pp. 48. Boston,
16. " Rapport des Administrateurs de l'Hopital General de Massachu-
setts, suivi de l'Histoire de la Decouverte de l'Ether, &c. &c." R. H.
Dana, jun., editeur. pp. 144. Cambridge, 1848.
17. "A Defence of Dr. Charles T. Jackson's Claims to the Discovery
of Etherization ; containing Testimony disproving the Claims set up in
Favor of Mr. W. T. G. Morton in the Report of the Trustees of the
Massachusetts Hospital, and in No. 201 of Littell's Living Age." By
Joseph L. and Henry C. Lord. pp. 37. Boston, June, 1848.
18. ' The Ether Controversy : Vindication of the Hospital Report of
1848." By N. I. Bowditch. pp. 32. Boston, July, 1848.
19. Reports of the First Exhibition of the Worcester County Mechan-
ics' Association at Worcester, September, 1848. pp. 74.
20. " Ether and Chloroform ; their Discovery and Physiological Effects,
&c." By H. J. Bigelow, M. D. pp. 45. Boston, November, 1848.
21. Memorial addressed to the Trustees of the Massachusetts General
Hospital, in Behalf of C. T. Jackson, M. D., by his attorneys, J. L. and
H. C. Lord. pp. 27. Boston, December, 1848.
22. Report of the Select Committee of the Congress of the United
States, to whom was referred the Memorial of William T. G. Morton,
asking Compensation from Congress for the Discovery of the Pain-sub-
duing Property of Sulphuric Ether, pp. 46. Washington, D. C, Feb.
23. Minority Report of the same Committee, pp. 99. Washington,
D. C, Feb. 23, 1849.
24. "Rapport du Comite du Senat et de la Chambre des Representants
des Etats Unis d'Amerique, auquel on refera le Memoire de William T. G.
Morton, demandant une Compensation," &c. &c. pp. 35. Le 23 Fevrier,
25. ' The Casket and the Ribbon ; or, the Honors of Ether." pp. 26.
Baltimore, 1849. By William H. Dwinells, M. D.
The volumes of the " Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
from August, 1846, to August, 1849, inclusive, contain com-
munications on " Letheon." To these I add :
26. " An Address delivered before the Castleton Medical College, on
the History of the Original Application of Anaesthetic Agents ;" May 17,
1848. By E. R. Smilie, M. D.
ETHER, 1846 633
27. *' Painless Operations in Surgery." Littell's Living Age, Vol. xiii,
No. 161, June 12, 1847.
28. " Etherization : a Compendium of its History, Surgical Use, Dan-
ger, and Discovery." By Henry J. Bigelow, M. D. Boston Medical and
Surgical Journal, April 19, 1848, p. 229 and p. 254.
29. " Anaesthetic Agents : their Mode of Exhibition and Physiological
Effects." By Henry J. Bigelow, M. D. Transactions of the American
Medical Association, Vol. 1, 1848.
30. " Principles recognized by Scientific Men applied to the Ether Con-
troversy." By Mr. Joseph Hale Abbot. Littell's Living Age, Vol. XVII.
No. 214, June 17, 1848.
31. "Etherization; with Surgical Remarks." By J. C. Warren, M. D.
32. " On the Physiological Effects of Sulphuric Ether, and its Superior-
ity to Chloroform." By William T. G. Morton, M. D. Boston, 1850.
33. " Interesting Statement of Pacts relative to the Ether Discovery."
By H. A. Hildreth, Boston. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Nov.
34. " Discovery by the late Horace Wells of the Applicability of Ni-
trous-Oxide Gas, Sulphuric Ether, and other Vapors, in Surgical Opera-
tions, nearly two years before the Patented Discovery of Drs. Charles T.
Jackson and W. T. G. Morton." By J. Wales. Hartford, Conn., 1852.
35. " On Anaesthetic Agents." By Charles T. Jackson, M. D. South-
ern Medical and Surgical Journ?!. January. 1853. Augusta, Ga.
36. " Trials of a Public Benefactor, as illustrated in the Discovery of
Etherization." By Nathan P. Rice, M. D. New York, 1859.
37. "Dr. Wells, the Discoverer of Anaesthesia. Who conquered Pain?"
New York, i860. (Anonymous.)
38. " A Manual of Etherization ; containing Directions for the Employ-
ment of Ether, Chloroform, and other Anaesthetic Agents, by Inhalation,
in Surgical Operations, intended for Military and Naval Surgeons, and all
who may be Exposed to Surgical Operations; with Instructions for the
Preparation of Ether and Chloroform, and for testing them for Impurities.
Containing also a brief History of the Discovery of Anaesthesia." By
Charles T. Jackson, M. D. Boston, 1861. i2tno, pp. 134.
39. "An Inquiry into the Origin of Modern Anaesthesia." By the
Hon. Truman Smith. Including a Life of Horace Wells, by P. W. Ells-
worth, M. D. Hartford, 1867.
40. " Nitrous-Oxide Gas for Surgical Purposes in 1848." By Henry
J. Bigelow, M. D. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Feb. 13, 1868,
41. " Death by Chloroform, and Alleged Death by Ether." Boston
Medical and Surgical Journal, October 24, 1872.
42. "Alleged Death from Ether. A Letter to the Editor of the British
634 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Medical Journal." Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, November 20.
43. A Century of American Medicine, â€” 1776-1876. " A History of the
Discovery of Modern Anaesthesia." By Henry J. Bigelow, M. D. Phila-
delphia. Also in American Journal of the Medical Sciences, January, 1876.
44. " History of the Discovery of Anaesthesia." By J. Marion Sims,
M. D., M. A., LL.D., 267 Madison Avenue, New York. From Virginia
Medical Monthly, May, 1877. Richmond, 1877; New York, 1879.
45. "Anaesthetic Inhalation: Rival Claimants to the Discovery. Dr.
Long's Claim criticised. The Priority of Dr. Morton's Claim maintained."
By William J. Morton, M. D. New York Medical Times, Sept. 9, 1879.
46. " The Discoverer of Anaesthesia. The Claims made for Dr. Long
criticised." By William J. Morton, M. D. New York Medical Record,
Nov. 1, 1879.
47. " Escape from Pain : the History of a Discovery." By Sir James
Paget. The Nineteenth Century, December, 1879.
48. ' The Invention of Anaesthetic Inhalation ; or, Discovery of Anaes-
thesia." By William J. Morton, M. D. Reprint, with additions and alter-
ations, from Virginia Medical Monthly, March, 1880. New York, 1880.
49. " Statement of the History of his Discovery of the Means of pre-
venting all Sensations of Pain in Surgical Operations, by Administration
of Vapor of pure Sulphuric Ether, mixed with Air, by Pulmonary Inhala-
tion." By Charles T. Jackson, M. D. (No date or source given.)
50. Report No. 114. Thirtieth Congress, Second Session. Plouse of
Representatives. William T. G. Morton. Sulphuric Ether. Feb. 23, 1849.
Report of Dr. Edwards, from the Select Committee to whom the subject
was reierred. pp. 46.
51. Report No. 114. Thirtieth Congress, Second Session. House of
Representatives. Minority Report. W. T. G. Morton. Feb. 28, 1849.
52. Thirty-second Congress, First Session. House of Representatives.
William T. G. Morton, M. D. Sulphuric Ether. 1852. Referred to a
Select Committee. Dr. William H. Bissell, of Illinois, chairman; majority
report, pp. 128.
53. An Examination of the Question of Anaesthesia, arising on the
Memorial of Charles Thomas Welis, presented to the United States Senate,
Second Session, Thirty-Second Congress, and referred to a Select Com-
mittee, of which Hon. Isaac P. Walker is Chairman. Prepared for the
information of said Committee by Hon. Truman Smith, pp. 103. (No
54. Report to the House of Representatives of the United States of
America, vindicating the Rights of Charles T. Jackson to the Discovery of
the Anaesthetic Effects of Ether Vapor, and disproving the Claims of W.
T. G. Morton to that Discovery. Presented to the House of Represcnta-
ETHER, 1846 635
tives on Aug. 28, 1852, by Hon. Edward Stanly of North Carolina, and
Hon. Alexander Evans of Maryland, members of the Select Committee on
the Ether Question. Printed by authority of the Committee, pp. 57.
55. " Sulphuric Ether." Debate in the Senate, Saturday, Aug. 28, 1852.
Supplement to the " Boston Medical and Surgical Journal," Oct. 6, 1852.
56. Statements, supported by Evidence, of William T. G. Morton, M.
D., on his Claim to the Discovery of the Anaesthetic Properties of Ether,
submitted to the Honorable the Select Committee appointed by the Senate
of the United States. Thirty-Second Congress, Second Session, Jan. 21,
1853. Washington, 1853. pp. 582.
57. Appendix to the above ; containing Testimony in relation to the
Claims of Dr. Horace Wells, with Evidence explanatory thereto, pp. 135.
58. Thirty-second Congress, Second Session. In Senate of the United
States, Feb. 19, 1853. Report of Committee, No. 421. Report of Mr.
Walker; containing Views of the Chairman on "An Examination of the
Question of Anaesthesia," prepared by the Hon. Truman Smith, a member
of the Committee, and printed and circulated among the Members of the
Senate and House of Representatives, pp. 33.
59. The Respectful Notice, Protest, and Memorial of W. T. G. Morton,
M. D., Discoverer and Patentee of Etherization. Addressed to His Ex-
cellency the President, the Honorable Secretaries of the Treasury, War,
Navy, and Interior, touching the use of his Discovery in the Public Serv-
ice, in violation of his vested rights under the Letters Patent of the United
States. Washington, 1854. pp. 49.
60. Thirty-seventh Congress, second Session, Report of Committee, No.
89. In the Senate of the United States, Feb. 14, 1863. Mr. H. Wilson.
Report of the Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia, to whom
was referred the Petition of William T. G. Morton asking Compensation
for the Discovery and Gift to his Country and Mankind of the application
of Etherial Vapor as a safe and practical Anaesthesia, or pain-subduing
Agent, pp. 166.
61. " Ether." Chapter XIV in " A Narrative of Medicine in America,"