An Interactive Annotated World Bibliography of Printed and Digital Works in the History of Medicine and the Life Sciences from Circa 2000 BCE to 2022 by Fielding H. Garrison (1870-1935), Leslie T. Morton (1907-2004), and Jeremy M. Norman (1945- ) Traditionally Known as “Garrison-Morton”

15853 entries, 13794 authors and 1925 subjects. Updated: January 31, 2023

MORTON, William Thomas Green

5 entries
  • 5652

Circular. Morton’s Letheon.

Boston, MA: Printed by L. H. Bridgham, 1846.

Unaware of Crawford Long’s results with ether, Morton, having been informed of the anesthetic effects of ether by Charles T. Jackson, promoted its anesthetic effects. To do so he published the above circular, in which he called his anesthetic by the name of “Letheon”. Henry Jacob Bigelow appreciated the significance of the discovery, and Bigelow's paper (No. 5651) soon spread the news throughout the medical world. Digital facsimile of the 5th edition from the Internet Archive at this link.



Subjects: ANESTHESIA › Ether
  • 7310

U. S. Patent No. 4848. The United States of America. To all to whom these Letters Patent shall come.... November 12, 1846.

Washington, DC, 1846.

U.S. Patent No. 4848, issued to Charles T. Jackson and William T. G. Morton on November 12, 1846 for the discovery of sulfuric ether as a surgical anesthetic. This was the first truly significant medical patent ever issued. Few copies of this broadside were printed. Though the patent was formally issued on November 12, 1846 it is likely that the patent was first printed (as a broadside) in 1847.

Critics of Jackson's role in the discovery should remember that he shared the patent for the discovery with Morton, as Jackson discovered the scientific effects of ether in surgery while Morton deserves credit for introducing them to the surgical community. However, the patent proved unenforceable and the famous long-running dispute between Morton and Jackson over priority in the discovery ensued.

"Be it known that we, Charles T. Jackson and William T. G. Morton of Boston, in the County of Suffolk, and State of Massachusetts, have invented or discovered a new and useful improvement in surgical operations on animals, whereby we are enabled to accomplish many, if not all operations . . . without any, or with very little pain....

"It has never (to our knowledge) been known until our discovery, that the inhalation of [chemical ethers] (particularly those of sulphuric ether) would produce insensibility to pain, or such a state of quiet of nervous action as to render a person or animal incapable to a great extent, if not entirely, of experiencing pain while under the action of the knife or other instrument of operation of a surgeon, calculated to produce pain.

"This is our discovery, and the combining it with, or applying it to any operation of Surgery, for the purpose of alleviating animal suffering, as well as of enabling a surgeon to conduct his operations with little or no struggling, or muscular action of the patient, and with more certainty of success, constitutes our invention...."



Subjects: ANESTHESIA › Ether, LAW and Medicine & the Life Sciences › Medical Patents
  • 11914

Animal magnetism superceded: Discovery of a new hypnopoietic.

Lond. med. Gaz., 3, 1085-1086, 1846.

The first publication in England of the discovery of ether anesthesia appeared in the "Medical Intelligence" section of the London Medical Gazette on December 18, 1846. Prior to Fulton & Stanton's discovery of this article it was long assumed that the earliest publication in England was published ten days later, on the last page of The Lancet for Saturday, December 28, 1846. The text of the "Medical Intelligence" entry in the London Medical Gazette is much more substantial than the brief notice in The Lancet. The editor of the London Medical Gazette wrote, "We learn on the authority of a highly respectable physician of Boston, U.S.,[Henry Jacob Bigelow] that a Dr. Morton, a surgeon-dentist of that city, has discovered a process whereby in a few minutes the most profound sleep may be induced, during which teeth may be extracted, and severe operations performed, without the patient being sensible of pain, or having any knowledge of the proceedings of the operator. The process simply consists in causing the patient to inhale the vapour of ether for as short period, and the effect is to produce complete insensibility." See John F. Fulton, "The reception in England of Henry Jacob Bigelow's original paper on anesthesia," New Eng. J. Med., 235 (1946) 745-746.



Subjects: ANESTHESIA, ANESTHESIA › Ether
  • 5653

Remarks on the proper mode of administering sulphuric ether by inhalation.

Boston, MA: Dutton & Wentworth, Printers, 1847.

This 44-page pamphlet was the first American manual on the administration of anesthesia. In it Morton announced that his method of producing anesthesia was obtained by the inhalation of sulphuric ether. He subsequently devoted himself to the study of surgical anesthesia and to the dissemination of information concerning it, with the expectation of enriching himself through a government grant, after the patent that he obtained together with Charles Thomas Jackson concerning the discovery proved unenforceable. Digital facsimile from the Internet Archive at this linkSee No. 5660. 



Subjects: ANESTHESIA › Ether
  • 6903

Tarnished Idol: William Thomas Green Morton and the introduction of surgical anesthesia. A chronicle of the ether controversy. By Richard J. Wolfe.

Novato, CA: Norman Publishing, 2001.

The most comprehensive biography of Morton, and the most comprehensive account of the ether controversy between Morton and Charles Thomas Jackson.



Subjects: ANESTHESIA › History of Anesthesia, BIOGRAPHY (Reference Works) › Biographies of Individuals