The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Morton, William Thomas Green

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MORTON, Wllliam Thomas Green, American dental surgeon: b. Charlton, Mass., 19 Aug. 1819; d. New York, 15 July 1868. He established himself in the practice of dentistry in Boston, and there in March 1844 became a student of medicine in the office of Dr. C. T. Jackson (q.v.), the scientist. In November 1846 he obtained a patent for the process of anæsthesia by what he called “letheon,” now known as ether. Jackson claimed the discovery of etherization previous to the winter of 1841-42, and Morton's patent was contested by both Jackson and Horace Wells, another of Jackson's pupils. Morton communicated his knowledge of the process to Dr. J. C. Warren, and anæsthesia by ether was made public through an operation performed by Warren at the Massachusetts General Hospital 16 Oct. 1846. The French Academy of Sciences investigated the matter and decreed a Montyon prize of 2,500 francs to Jackson for the discovery, and another of like amount to Morton for the application of the discovery to surgical operations. In 1852 a bill appropriating $100,000 as a national testimonial to Morton was introduced in Congress, but failed, as it did also in 1853 and 1854. Testimonials accrediting to him the application of ether as an anæsthetic were signed by the medical profession in Boston (1856), New York (1858) and Philadelphia (1860). Consult Weyman, ‘Trials of a Public Benefactor’ (1859).