Julie M. Fenster: Ether Day The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It



Fairly interesting a tangled tale about three men all of whom claimed the invention of ether The book interweaves the tale of the three men with information on surgical procedures of the time Needless to say the development of anesthesia was an incredible boon I d have preferred medical information however than biographical information Ether Day is a fascinating look at the history of anesthesia even if ou re not an anesthesiologist Think about it the first clinical use of general anesthesia in the surgical arena was just over 150 ears ago This is an amusing and educational look at the history of what is arguably the most important medical advancement in the history of mankind This book will interest anyone who has ever had surgery plans to have surgery has an interest in medicine or history or just likes to know stuff I first heard about this book on NPR in 2001 The story was fascinating a conman dentist made one of the most revolutionary discoveries in modern medical science and no one has heard of him Plus there s this endless feud between the various men who claim the discovery and its effects on the establishment in both science and class and the monetization of medicine The sell was great I remembered the author s name for weeks before I I uite liked this book unexpectedly lent to me Having read a fair amount of non fiction history I thought the author did a pretty good job at bringing the main characters to life Ether Day was almost a minor role in what played out for many ears between the men who wanted to be acknowledged as the person who introduced ether to the medical world The stories of the men and their personalities were uite vivid and surprisingly dramatic The story of ether was also a surprise as I had been unaware of the prevalence of social use of ether prior to Ether Day The science of ether and the medical use was like mortar between bricks not taking up a lot of the book but it was nicely integrated and provided the structure to explore the responses of the medical profession in other places besides Boston where the 1st hospital use is likely to have occurred I would go for a 35 here as I think the book was uite interesting for such an unexpected topic This book by American Heritage magazine columnist and New York Times contributor Julie M Fenster is a remarkable account of the history of modern anesthesia a word assigned to the procedure by no less than the estimable Daniel Webster and the lives of the men who worked to gain its acceptance in the medical world Fenster has a wonderful dry wit which comes in handy when describing the antics of William Morton the mountebank and physician manue who aimed to make his fortune selling an orange scented version of common sulphuric ether named in what seems to be the first trademark of a medical good Letheon and who left a record of swindles and business fraud ranging. Though ether may not spring to mind in a search for the greatest medical discovery the description of su.

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From New Hampshire to New Orleans before demonstrating to the physicians of Massachusetts General Hospital the usefulness of ether in surgery largely removing its greatest terror unrelieved pain While effusive in her praise of the procedure of anesthesia itself Fenster gives us wonderful warts and all portraits of the major personalities who jockeyed for the title of inventor of anesthesia which included William Morton and at least two respected New England physician scholars The venues for this struggle included the United States House of Representatives where certain Representatives fought to get their state s favorite son recognition and money for the distinction of giving anesthesia to the world This is a wonderful history of anesthesia as we have come to know it in that early stage where it dramatically improved the lot of surgical patients with chemicals which before then were scientific curiosities used mainly for the entertainment of the middle class as then legal recreational drugs This showed up in a monthly library magazine and caught my eye Had to be ordered through inter library loan and came from Western Pennsylvania A slow sometimes monotonous read I found the medical history a bit tedious at times but informing What I find interesting is that Ether is a preferred gas well into the 21st century Interesting historical perspective on the discovery of anesthesia especially considering all of the other famous people involved including Ralph Waldo E Really interesting was psyched that on page 5 they introduce William Morton as one of the men responsible for figuring out how to use ether for surgery since Morton is a family name and there s a chance he s a distant relative Until they reveal that he was wanted in 5 states for fraud and spends the whole book trying to get credit for something he likely didn t have much to do with discovering I have to admire his gumption at least go Mortons Luckily he didn t kill anyone This review originally appeared on my blog at wwwgimmethatbookcomThanks to the author for gifting me this book for reviewETHER DAY is meticulously researched the characters are brought to life via the detailed descriptions of their lives and mental statesTo think that people were operated on with no care for their pain Hummer yet Laughing Gas ether was used by non medical people for fun and escape is mind boggling No one made the connection between the two until William Morton Horace Wells and Charles Jackson discovered the other uses of this gasThe fact that these three men s lives overlapped was both good and bad the discovery of ether as an anesthetic made both patient s and surgeon s lives better but there was a lot of vitriol and ego involved as well Each stood to make his fortune via etheret their lives were not always brightened by their actionsFenster has clearly done her research there is both an index and Rgery before ether at the beginning of this book will make a strong case for it This fascinating account.

Ndnotes showing the comprehensive reading she did to recreate this story She also includes a bibliography for further reading The 1800 s come to life under her expert prose and background detail I especially enjoyed the explanation of how the gas was delivered and how the machines were tinkered with to provide a accurate mixing of gas and air The fact that these men experimented on themselves shows both folly and determination in Chapter 14 Chlory there is a section about scientists sniffing different concoctions of gases to figure out the best combinationEvery Thursday evening they would gather at the Simpson home sitting around the dining table to inhale candidate chemicals I selected for experiment and have inhaled several chemical liuids of a fragrant and agreeable odor Simpson wrote in a medical journal during the course of his research such as the chlorine of hydrocarbon acetone nitrate of oxide of ethyle benzin the vapour of chloroform etc One old friend a professor named Miller made a habit of dropping by at breakfast time every Friday so he said to see if anyone was dead The lengths these men went to in the name of science is unheard of today As the book jacket notes Ether Day is a little known anniversary With Baited Breath (Warhammer 40,000) yet without the actions of these men there would have been greater suffering in this world They were not heros either just men trying to make money or a name for themselves who fell into a bizarre chain of events that would send them all down a crazy rabbit hole and eventually break themAuthor Julie Fenster has brought the memory of these men out of the past and placed it firmly into our awareness with ETHER DAY I commend her for choosing her subject wisely and keeping this discovery relevant in a new way Ether Day tells the stranger than fiction story of the men who were involved the invention of ether The subject matter is fascinating it s wild to think about life before anesthetics and how much medical practice truly changed with stronger solutions to pain We really take for granted that anesthesia is safe and accessible There s a heavy focus on the legal aspects of the discovery ifou re interested in the history of patent law this ll be a great read for ou and also the lesser known aspects of the lives of the men who claimed to discover it You won t find anything about William T G Morton s early days as a con man through cursory research for instance This is also a delightful read if ou re a medical history nerd who comes from Boston Many of the places from institutions to streets mentioned are still around todayWhile I liked the book overall I had trouble getting into Fenster s writing style I wouldn t say it s dry but the book didn t grab me uite as firmly as some of the other medical histories I ve read It s difficult to put my finger on This didn t spoil the book by any means but it just wasn t a page turner for me. Tells of the three men responsible for bringing ether to the world and details their bitter falling out.