House of Pain

The site of a breakthrough that will knock you out

houseofpainPhoto: Massachusetts General Hospital

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ne of the most important developments in the history of medicine happened in an operating room that you can visit: the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital, where ether was successfully used for the first time on October 16, 1846. That day, considered the dawn of modern surgery, dentist William T.G. Morton placed a glass inhaler with an ether-soaked sponge over the mouth of patient Gilbert Abbott while Dr. John Collins Warren removed a tumor from Abbott’s neck; the sponge is on display in the operating room, too, along with a replica of the inhaler. Often overlooked in a corner of the room is the 6th century BC mummy of an Egyptian stonecutter named Padihershef, given to the hospital in 1823.

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There’s a monument in the Boston Public Garden to the discovery of ether, but it doesn’t take sides in the dispute over who was the rightful inventor, instead depicting a generic doctor who is dressed, for some reason, in robes and a turban.

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