The New International Encyclopædia/Wells, Horace

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WELLS, Horace (1815-48). An American dentist, born in Hartford, Vt. He studied dentistry in Boston, and practiced it for a time there till 1836, when he removed to Hartford, Conn. He had already conceived the idea that some anaesthetic might be used in dentistry to prevent pain, and had thought of the employment of nitrous oxide gas as early as 1840. In 1844 he used it successfully in several cases. Early in 1845 he communicated his discovery to Drs. Hayward, Warren, V. T. G. Morton, C. T. Jackson, and others in Boston. In 1846 Dr, Morton and Dr. Jackson obtained a patent for anaesthetics against the remonstrance of Wells. After a visit to Paris, where he communicated his discovery to the French medical societies, and on his return to America, he published A History of the Discovery of the Application of Nitrous Oxide Gas, Ether, and Other Vapors to Surgical Operations (1847). The dispute as to his discovery and constant experiments upon himself with chloroform produced mental alienation. While in New York, where he was urging his claims before the medical profession, he was arrested and committed suicide. Wells was certainly the first to carry to a successful issue the use of an anaesthetic in surgical operations, with the possible exception of Crawford V. Long (q.v.), whose success was not known till 1849. To Morton is due the credit of having made the discovery widely known and having put it within the reach of the surgical world. See Anæsthesia: Morton, W. T. G. Consult Dr. Wells, the Discoverer of Anæsthesia (New York, 1860).

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.