The First Successful Public Demonstration of Ether Takes Place at Massachusetts General Hospital

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Where it all began: the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital. From 1821-1868, more than 8,000 operations were performed in this operating theater. The displayed painting depicts the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia that took place on October 16, 1846.

On October 16, 1846, the first successful public demonstration of the use of ether for surgical anesthesia was performed, making pain-free surgery possible. This historical event took place in the amphitheater on the 4th floor of the Bulfinch Building at Massachusetts General Hospital. William Morton, a dentist from Hartford, Connecticut, came up with the idea of administering ether to a patient, Gilbert Abbott, so that Mass General surgeon, John Collins Warren, could painlessly remove a tumor from Mr. Abbott’s neck. The success of this event marked the birth of anesthesiology and transformed surgery from butchery and trauma, to a humane and often life-saving therapy.

Prior to this historic event, only one operation a week had been performed at Mass General since its opening in 1821. Success of the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia led to a significant increase in the number of daily operations. Moreover, news of Dr. Morton's success spread quickly throughout the world, thereby changing the surgical experience of patients forever! The amphitheater, now known as the Ether Dome, is a national historical monument.

Our Two-Day Virtual Event

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The operating theater's dome and large glass ceiling were designed to allow for an abundance of natural light during surgical operations.

Each year, on October 16, we celebrate the employees whose time at Mass General is a multiple of five years. In addition to this year's annual event, we are planning a two-day virtual celebration on October 15 and October 16, 2021, to commemorate the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia and to celebrate Mass General's Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine (DACCPM).

The theme of the virtual celebration will be, “MGH Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” The event will include an exciting overview of 175 years of anesthesiology at Mass General as well as a look into the future of the field.


Friday, October 15, 2021

Time: 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. EST

1. Highlights from the 175 Year History of Ether Anesthesia
2. Celebrating Today: A Look Inside the Mass General Department of Anesthesia

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Time: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EST

3. The Broad Impact of the DACCPM on Anesthesiology Today
4. The DACCPM and the Future of Anesthesiology

How to Register

Register for this virtual event

Registered guests will be emailed a link to access the event in advance of the event date.

Make a Gift

Matching Gift Opportunity Commemorates the 175th Anniversary of Ether and Creates a Legacy

Jeanine Wiener-Kronish, MD, former anesthetist-in-chief at Mass General, and Daniel Kronish, MD, have generously agreed to match gifts up to $100,000 to commemorate the 175th anniversary and celebration of ether as an anesthetic. This will establish the DACCPM 175th Ether Anniversary Endowed Fund, which will support departmental priorities. Please partner with us during this exciting time and help create a legacy!

For information on gifts of cash or stock, please email Bob O’Brien, director of development at Mass General.

Make a gift today