The Room that Altered Medical History

The Room that Altered Medical History

The Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston hosted one of the greatest moments in medical history.

Witnesses watched from the surgical theater as William Thomas Green Morton, a local dentist, successfully used anesthetic on a patient. The surgery that followed also went off perfectly.

Boston memorialized the moment with Ether Monument in the Public Garden. The Good Samaritan statue has "Neither Shall There Be Any More Pain" inscribed on it. The monument commemorates Ether Day and the chance for future generations to undergo surgery without excruciating pain.

Nitrous Oxide aka Laughing Gas

V0018140 The first use of ether in dental surgery, 1846. Oil painting[Image Available via Public Access]

In 1844, Hartford dentist Horace Wells discovered the painkilling effects of nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as Laughing Gas. Wells's volunteers who inhaled the gas stumbled around on a 'high'. Wells began using nitrous oxide on his clients. He confidently went to present his discovery under the scrutiny of the Ether Dome. However, the demonstration was unsuccessful. The patient groaned in pain post-anesthetic, drawing cries of "Humbug!" from the rafters.

mummy-and-sarcophagus-in-the-ether-dome-curious-expeditions[Image source: Flickr]

“Gentlemen, this is no humbug.”

On October 16, 1846, a year after Wells's failed demonstration, Morton anesthetized Edward Gilbert Abbott before he underwent surgery. John Collins Warren, the first dean of Harvard Medical School, removed a tumor from Abbott's neck. When asked about his feelings post-surgery, Abbott replied "Feels as if my neck's been scratched." Warren then turned to the audience and said "Gentlemen, this is no Humbug."

copper-dome_3367539375_o[Image source: Flickr]

The Ether Dome has been used as a surgical amphitheater for more than 8,000 operations, but this one is clearly its defining moment.

Architecture of the Ether Dome

ether-dome-seats-and-dome_curious-expeditions[Image source: Flickr]

Besides its medical importance, the Ether Dome is a primary example of modern operating rooms. It's located inside the Bulfinch Building of the Massachusetts General Hospital, which was built by Charles Bulfinch. He was a pioneer architect known for attaching tunnels to the homes he built. Furthermore, he crafted the Federalist Architecture style known by its four exterior chimney design and ornamentation that dominated early 19th-century American architecture.

ether-dome-amphitheater[Image source: Flickr]

Bulfinch built rooms to collect and focus the maximum light onto the operating table. Located in the middle of the amphitheater, the table had to be easily seen as there was no electric lighting during that time. The glass dome gathered the light inside and allowed the surgeons see in perfect detail.

ether-dome-informative-plaque_curious-expeditions[Image source: Flickr]

In the years following its closure as a medical amphitheater, the Dome underwent several restorations. It now serves as a national historic monument. It holds an Egyptian mummy, early surgical equipment and an oil painting of the famous Ether Day surgery.

If you want to visit, check here to check visiting hours and days here.

Via: Wikipedia

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Written by Tamar Melike Tegün

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