The surprising (and Long) story of the first use of ether in surgery

Illustration of Crawford Long removing a tumor from the neck of James Venable. Crawford W. Long Museum, CC BY-SA

Roger K. Thomas, University of Georgia

In the small town of Jefferson, Georgia, about 20 miles from the University of Georgia in Athens, a 26-year-old physician named Crawford Williamson Long removed a tumor from the neck of a man named James Venable while Venable was anesthetized with ether. The date was March 30, 1842.

More than four years later, in Boston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 16, 1846, Thomas Morton, a dentist using ether, served as anesthesiologist while Dr. John Warren, a surgeon at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, performed surgery on a patient’s neck.

A physician observer rushed the news to local newspapers and medical journals, and thus history was written – inaccurately.

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About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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