The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Wells, Horace

Edition of 1920. See also Horace Wells on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

WELLS, Horace, American dentist: b. Hartford, Vt., 21 Jan. 1815; d New York, 24 Jan. 1848. He studied dentistry in Boston and practised it there until 1836, then went to Hartford, Conn. For years he made investigations and experiments in search of an agent for preventing pain in the extraction of teeth, and finally became convinced that he had found such an agent in nitrous-oxide gas. In 1844 he made a practical test by having one own teeth extracted while he was under the influence of his supposed anæsthetic and the operation confirmed his belief in the discovery. Thenceforth he used nitrous-oxide gas in his practice. He published “A History of the Application of Nitrous Oxide Gas, Ether and Other Vapors to Surgical Operations” (1847). His claims to the discovery of anæsthesia were controverted in the interest of G. Q. Colton, C. T. Jackson, W. T. G. Morton and J. C Warren (qq.v.), to each of whom some honors of its introduction belong. Wells may have had a predeceessor in C. W. Long (q.v.), but with regard to the first surgical use anaæsthetic, all other names must yield priority to his. He became mentally unbalanced while advocating his claims in New York, was taken into custody and committed suicide. A statue of Wells stands in Bushnell Park, Hartford, Conn. See Anæsthetics.