Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Crawford W. Long, first use of ether anesthesia

Crawford Williamson Long (1815–1878) is best known for his first use of ether as an anesthetic. He graduated from medical school in Pennsylvania and walked the hospitals in New York. He then returned home to set up practice in Jefferson, Georgia, a village some 140 miles from a railroad, where professional visits were made on a gray horse and operations crudely performed in a primitive wooden office.

At that time so-called ether frolics were carried out as a social diversion in which young men and women would inhale the drug on a handkerchief and fall insensible on the floor, then sleep off the effects. Crawford Long tried its effects himself, but in 1845 he resolved to use ether on a patient of his who had two swellings on the back of his neck. The operation went off without incident and the patient was well pleased. Long continued to use ether occasionally in his practice but being alone he mistrusted himself and took no steps to publicize his discovery. It was only in 1849, when others had already used ether with much more publicity and excitement, that he published his experience in a southern medical journal.

Abstracted from Masters of Medicine by Harley Williams, 1954, p. 75, PAN Books, London.

Dr. Crawford W Long 1940 Stamp. US Post Office. Via Wikimedia.

Highlighted Vignette Volume 13, Issue 2– Spring 2021

Winter 2021



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