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Although he wasn’t the first to use ether as an anesthetic, Boston dentist William Morton was credited with this discovery after using ether for a tooth extraction in the mid-1840s. But Morton had done so at the recommendation of Boston chemist Charles Jackson, who also claimed part of the credit. When the Massachusetts Historical Society decided to pay tribute to the discoverer of anesthesia, a monument was commissioned. But there was some dispute as to whether Morton’s or Jackson’s bust should adorn the statue. Realizing that the controversy would never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., suggested that they use busts of both men with this inscription: “To Ether”!

Today in the Word, May 7, 1993

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