Who Invented Anesthesia?

William Morton first demonstrated the use of ether as an anesthetic, but no one knows who actually invented anesthesia. After Morton’s demonstration at Massachusetts General Hospital, several people came forward claiming they had discovered anesthesia much earlier.

Horace Wells claimed to have invented the use of nitrous oxide for anesthesia two years before Morton’s demonstration. Wells, a dentist, got the idea for using nitrous oxide while he was watching a laughing gas demonstration. One of the audience members hurt his leg during the event, but the injured man was not aware he had hurt himself. The following day, the man who gave the demonstration went to Wells’ office and administered nitrous oxide to the curious dentist. Although a colleague extracted one of his teeth, Wells reported feeling no pain.

Charles Jackson, one of Morton’s teachers, claimed he discovered the use of ether as an anesthetic and suggested Morton try the technique.