Ether Dome

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Ether Dome, Massachusetts General Hospital
MGH Ether Dome 29Jan2008.jpg
The inside of the dome as viewed from the surgical theatre.
Ether Dome is located in Boston
Ether Dome
Ether Dome is located in Massachusetts
Ether Dome
Ether Dome is located in USA
Ether Dome
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°21′48.70″N 71°4′4.30″W / 42.3635278°N 71.0678611°W / 42.3635278; -71.0678611Coordinates: 42°21′48.70″N 71°4′4.30″W / 42.3635278°N 71.0678611°W / 42.3635278; -71.0678611
Area less than one acre
Built 1846
Architect Charles Bulfinch; George Perkins; Alexander Parris
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP Reference # 66000366[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL January 12, 1965[2]

The Ether Dome is a surgical operating amphitheater in the Bulfinch Building at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. It served as the hospital's operating room from its opening in 1821 until 1867. It was the site of the first public demonstration of the use of inhaled ether as a surgical anesthetic on 16 October 1846. Crawford Long, a surgeon in Georgia, had previously administered sulfuric ether in 1842, but this went unpublished until 1849.[3][4] The Ether Dome event occurred when William Thomas Green Morton, a local dentist, used ether to anesthetize Edward Gilbert Abbott. John Collins Warren, the first dean of Harvard Medical School, then painlessly removed part of a tumor from Abbott's neck. After Warren had finished, and Abbott regained consciousness, Warren asked the patient how he felt. Reportedly, Abbott said, "Feels as if my neck's been scratched". Warren then turned to his medical audience and uttered "Gentlemen, this is no Humbug".[5][6] This was presumably a reference to the unsuccessful demonstration of nitrous oxide anesthesia by Horace Wells in the same theater the previous year, which was ended by cries of "Humbug!" after the patient groaned with pain.[7]

Today, the Ether Dome is actively used for daily medical conferences and presentations. When not in use, it is open to the public. There is a contemporary recreation of the historic event by Warren and Lucia Prosperi seen in the Ether Dome. In addition, there is a mummy and authentic surgical instruments in cases. The mummy was recently studied by CAT scan.[8] More information about the ether story, including period ether inhalers and a 1930s silent film recreation of ether day, is on view at the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation, also at MGH. The Ether Dome is listed as a National Historic Landmark.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Ether Dome, Massachusetts General Hospital". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  3. ^ Madden, M. Leslie (May 14, 2004). "Crawford Long (1815-1878)". New Georgia Encylcopedia. University of Georgia Press. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Crawford W. Long". Doctors' Day. Southern Medical Association. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  5. ^ Fenster, J. M. (2001). Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-019523-6. 
  6. ^ The Roots of Critical Care, Jennifer Nejman Bohonak, Massachusetts General Hospital Magazine, 2011
  7. ^ "Horace Wells". Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "National Historic Landmarks Program: Ether Dome, Massachusetts General Hospital". Retrieved 2007-06-25. 

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