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Jornal Brasileiro de Patologia e Medicina Laboratorial

Print version ISSN 1676-2444On-line version ISSN 1678-4774

J. Bras. Patol. Med. Lab. vol.45 no.4 Rio de Janeiro Aug. 2009 



Thomas Green Morton, inventor of anesthesia




Discoveries and medical inventions had transformed life of several civilizations, turning it possible with less suffering and for a longer time. However, nothing would be possible or bearable if it was not discovered a form to win the pain, challenge that has always imposed itself as an objective for the scholars of medical science since Hippocrates.

Therefore, it is not possible to talk about the great inventions of medicine without a generous chapter dedicated to the one who discovered how to make possible a surgery with general anesthesia. It happened in 1846, in Boston city, in the United States of America, when the American dentist Thomas Green Morton, for the first time, used ether to accomplish a surgery.

This fact happened in the surgical amphitheatre of General Massachusetts Hospital and, even so Morton was a dentist, he was there because he had idealized an ether inhalator device, created from several Morton experiences with the use of inhaled ether to accomplish dental extractions without pain. Imagining the possibility of a surgery without pain, the dentist requested an authorization to try its device in a bigger surgery. The patient was a young boy of 17 years old, named Gilbert Abbot, who had a tumor in the neck. Next to the surgeon John Collins Warren, Thomas Green Morton participated of the surgery, considered a success and the first concrete experience of general anesthesia.

Although the first step toward the discovery of how to anesthetize patients had been given for Joseph Priestley, in 1773, with the discovery of the dioxide of nitrogen (NO2), others experiences made with the method had not occasioned the desired effect, and were a risk for the life of those who participated of the experiments.

Thomas Green Morton in his researches always wanted to study forms of using an anesthetic that could help in the control of pain, without risk to whom made use of it. He consulted a chemistry professor that suggested the use of sulphuric ether. The results had been as favorable as the certainty that medical science was giving a giant step for overthrowing an important paradigm.

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