WLM ID: aknj | Catalog Record
Ether, a man-made liquid , was first described by Valerius Cordus in the 16th Century. Ever since, it has been known that inhaling the vapors of ether could cause, first, euphoria, and then drowsiness. It was applied topically, and taken orally, for numerous conditions, as well as being inhaled for respiratory ailments. In the 19th Century, it was the first substance to be publicly shown to alleviate the dreaded pain of surgery.
In 1842, Dr. Crawford W. Long (1815-1878) used ether for surgical anesthesia in his private practice in Jefferson, Georgia. In 1846, dentist William T. G. Morton (1819-1868) used ether to give the first successful public demonstration of surgical anesthesia, at Massachusetts General Hospital. The technique was quickly adopted worldwide, but the ether made at that time was of variable quality, and gave unpredictable results. Dr. Edward Robinson Squibb (1819-1900) published a description of his process for the production of chemically pure ether in 1856. He did not patent this process, but founded a pharmaceutical company two years later. E. R. Squibb & Sons became the leading manufacturer of anesthetic ether for nearly a century.
Ether’s flammability, its lengthy period of induction, and post-anesthetic nausea, were disadvantages that caused many to begin hunting for a better alternative. One of the first of these was chloroform, which quickly surpassed ether in popularity. But chloroform’s side effects eventually returned ether to prominence, and it was not completely replaced by newer agents until the 1970s.