Ollie directs our fogged attention to the most important parts of the Ether Monument.
Ollie directs our fogged attention to the most important parts of the Ether Monument.

Ether Monument

Field review by the editors.

Boston, Massachusetts

In a large public park, an obscure monument celebrates the birth of medical anesthesia by inhalation -- whomever the true parents might be. The Ether Monument commemorates, according to the inscription, the "discovery that the inhaling of ether causes insensibility to pain, first proved to the world at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, October 1846."

That ingenious use of anesthetic by dentist Thomas G. Morton on October 16, 1846, was disputed by other doctors, who claimed to have made the discovery first. None of them won the $100,000 award proposed by Congress at the time.

The 40-ft. tall marble and granite Ether Monument is the Public Garden's oldest statue, and was erected in 1868 while the ether inventor debate still raged. The monument never mentions Morton (or the other claimants) by name. Instead of Morton as the crowning statue, it's a "Good Samaritan" holding the unconscious body of a young man. One relief on the monument's side makes it appear that the ether breakthrough occurred in classical Greece instead of 19th century Boston. Honestly, people had been getting dopey on ether for centuries.

Relief of patient on the Ether Monument.
Relief of patient on the Ether Monument.

The Ether Monument underwent restoration, completed in 2006, to repair the four lion-headed fountains at its base (they spray water, not ether).

If this landmark fails to rouse you from medical monument stupor, drift on over to Massachusetts General Hospital for a look at the original Ether Dome ...

Ether Monument

Boston Public Garden

Address:
Arlington St., Boston, MA
Directions:
Boston Public Garden. In the park, just east of the intersection of Arlington and Marlborough Sts.
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November 28, 2014

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