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[309]

Dr. W. T. G. Morton

A distinguished American called upon Charles Darwin, and in the course of conversation asked him what he considered the most important discovery of the nineteenth century. To which Mr. Darwin replied, after a slight hesitation: “Painless surgery.” He thought this more beneficial in its effects on human affairs than either the steam-engine or the telegraph. Let it also be noted that he spoke of it as an invention, rather than as a discovery.

The person to whom all scientific men now attribute the honor of this discovery, or invention, is Dr. William T. G. Morton; and, although in that matter he was not without slight assistance from others, as well as predecessors in the way of tentative experiments, yet it was Doctor Morton who first proved the possibility of applying anaesthesia to surgical operations of a capital order; and it was he who pushed his theory to a practical success. It may also be admitted that Columbus could not have discovered the Western Hemisphere without the assistance of Ferdinand and Isabella; but it was Columbus who divined the existence of the American continent, and afterwards proved his theory to be true. There is an underlying

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William Thomas Greene Morton (2)
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