It commemorates the use of ether in anesthesia. Its design has been attributed to the Boston architect William Robert Ware and to the sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward. It is 40 feet (12 m) tall and is the oldest monument in the public garden.
The statue depicts a medical doctor in medieval Moorish-Spanish robe and turban—representing a Good Samaritan—who holds the drooping body of an almost naked man on his left knee. The doctor holds in his left hand a cloth, suggesting the use of ether that would be developed in centuries to come.
The anachronistic use of a Moorish doctor was probably intentional and served to avoid choosing sides in a debate that was raging at the time over who should receive credit for the first use of ether as an anesthetic. A handful of individuals had claimed credit for the discovery of anesthesia, most notably William T. G. Morton and Charles Thomas Jackson.
At the base of the statue are inscriptions explaining the significance of the discovery of the use of ether as an anesthetic. There are four inscriptions, which include biblical quotations from Isaiah 28:29 and Revelation 21:4:
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Massachusetts General Hospital, where this procedure took place, is located about a 15-minute walk from the site of the monument. The operating theater at MGH where the experiment took place was renamed the Ether Dome. It is now a National Historic Landmark. Several books have been written about this specific event.
As an outdoor monument in an area with a harsh climate, the structure has needed regular upkeep and repair. One source of revenue for upkeep of the monument has been income from R. A. Ortega's Written in Granite: An Illustrated History of the Ether Monument, which is available only by making a donation of at least $100 through the Friends of the Public Garden which goes to a fund devoted to preserving the monument for the future.
- "William Robert Ware". MIT Museum. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- "Ether Monument (The Good Samaritan) in the Boston Public Gardens in Massachusetts". dcMemorials. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
- "Ether Monument". Roadside America. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Coukell, Alan (October 12, 2006). "Revisiting a Boston Monument to Ether". Day to Day. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- About.com, "Boston Public Garden Photo Gallery"
- Fenster, Julie M. (2001). Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-019523-6 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-060-93317-3 (paperback).
- "Boston Dentist Demonstrates Ether: October 16, 1846". Mass Moments. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Ortega, Rafael A. (ed.). Written in Granite: An Illustrated History of the Ether Monument. Boston, MA, USA: Plexus Management. ISBN 978-0-87270-142-7.
- "The Ether Monument: An Enduring Restoration". Friends of the Public Garden, Inc. Retrieved 2010-03-01. External link in
- Wildsmith, J. A. W. "Review: Written in Granite: An Illustrated History of the Ether Monument. R. A. Ortega (editor)". BJA: British Journal of Anaesthesia. The Board of Management and Trustees of the British Journal of Anaesthesia. 98 (1): 155–156. doi:10.1093/bja/ael325. Retrieved 2010-03-01.