Medicine and Disease


When was anesthesia first used?

The first use, which was the subject of an embittered debate, was determined to have been in 1842, when Georgia physician Crawford Williamson Long (1815–1878) became the first doctor to use ether as an anesthetic. He went on to use ether in seven more operations before 1846, when he made a public demonstration of anesthesia. Long published his accounts of the experiences in December 1849.

But Boston dentist William T. G. Morton (1819–1868) disputed Long’s claim to have been first in using anesthesia. Morton had begun experimenting with anesthetics at about the same time as Long, and on October 16, 1846, he had arranged the first hospital operation using ether as an anesthetic: A tumor was removed from the neck of a patient at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Nevertheless, it is Long who gets credit for being the first doctor to use ether during an operation.


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