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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/620

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

CRAWFORD WILLIAMSON LONG AND THE USE OF ANESTHETICS IN SURGERY

On March 30, 1842, in the village of Jefferson, Georgia, Dr. Crawford W. Long administered ether to Mr. James Venable and, while he was completely anesthetized, removed a small tumor from the back of his neck. On the seventieth anniversary of the day, exercises in honor of Long were held in the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1839. Addresses were made by Professor J. William White, of the University of Pennsylvania, and by Professor J. Chalmers Da Costa, of the Jefferson Medical College, and a bronze medallion designed by Professor E. Tait Mackenzie, of the University of Pennsylvania, was unveiled by one of the three daughters of Dr. Long who were present at the ceremony.

Thus somewhat late official recognition has been given at the University of Pennsylvania to one of the advances in the medical sciences, which make an epoch in their development. At the close of the second of an important series of lectures on medical research, published above. Professor Richard M. Pearce, of the University of Pennsylvania, calls attention to the new era in surgery introduced by the use of anesthetics. This not only saves immeasurable suffering, but it makes possible, and comparatively safe, operations that could not be undertaken if the patient could move and struggle. Professor Pearce does not attempt to assign credit for the discovery of anesthetics, though he properly attributes its introduction to the world to the administration of ether by Dr. W. T. G. Morton, a dentist, for an operation performed by Dr. J. C. Warren at the Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846. Like scientific progress in many other directions, the use of anesthetics has had a long history, and we must speak of various advances rather than of a single discovery. The anesthetic effects of nepenthe, mandragora and hemp were known in antiquity, and it is said that surgical operations under them were performed in the time of Pliny, in China and in the middle ages. Sir Humphry Davy in 1800 announced the discovery of the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide, and wrote, "it may probably be used with advantage in surgical operations." Ether had been known for centuries, and in the first part of the nineteenth century its vapor and nitrous oxide gas were used for spasmodic asthma and to relieve pain. They were also used for their intoxicating effects, and it was under such conditions that Long noted their anesthetic properties.

Somewhat more than two years after the operation by Long, Dr. Horace Wells, a dentist of Hartford, Conn., had a tooth extracted while rendered insensible by nitrous oxide, and two years later, as noted above, ether was used by Dr. Morton. Dr. Wells and Dr. Morton had been in partnership, and both had been pupils of Dr. C. T. Jackson, the distinguished chemist and geologist of Boston, who in 1841 had experimented with both nitrous oxide gas and with ether, using them for the relief of pain. Morton patented ether in 1846 under the name of letheon, and a bitter controversy followed, in which Jackson, Wells and Morton were involved. Wells became insane and committed suicide. Later Jackson also became insane. Morton died from apoplexy,