Ether Inhaler (USA), ca. 1846
This is a Ether inhaler.
This device for administering anesthesia represents the first attempt to sedate surgery patients on a mass-scale. It consists of a glass vessel containing a sponge soaked with the evaporat¬ing chemical that the patient then inhaled through the tube. In the 1840s, Massa¬chusetts dentist Horace Wells introduced anesthesia into operations. After Wells’ death, fellow dentist William T. G. Morton experimented with the promising sedatives ether and chloroform, though ether smelled pungent and chloroform could cause sudden death. Nonetheless, Morton succeeded in pulling teeth painlessly from a patient under ether sedation and in 1846, another surgeon successfully removed a neck tumor. Within a year, this “anaesthestic”—a term coined by physician Oliver Wendell Holmes—was employed in nearly every surgery when available. Later designs of this simple two-necked glass tool limited administration of the gas to the patient, not to oth¬ers in the room as well.
It is credited
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. M-09244.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D (overall): 27.9 × 31.8 × 30.5 cm (11 in. × 12 1/2 in. × 12 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.