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The operating Massachusetts General Hospital that year 1844 was not large judged by modern standards the operating area in the center was flooded with white light which poured through a large skylight overhead. Interiors of seats rising up from the center where the medical students there to observe their first operation. The patient was brought in. The surgeon in his black frock coat he was the famous Doctor Warren stood before the Warren raised his hand for silence. Gentlemen of the Medical College. The operation you are about to witness is an amputation of the right leg. The patient is a white male of fifty in generally robust health. Since his pain will be acute. Observe that he is tightly strapped to the operating chair. Surgery gentlemen is not a foot race and yet reasonable speed is essential. He will therefore note that the time is I make the first incision is precisely
five minutes past ten. The time is now past. Fortunately the patients treated early in the operation which aided materially in my opinion. The amputation genuinely made for the moment be regarded as successful. The patient was alive at the end. He will recover if Gang Green does not set in or if in the next few minutes he does not die of surgical shock. CARNEY. Seemed desperate general. There are calculations called well they are but I invite you to remember that our adversary is an old and terrible one. In this room we are pitted against death. Have you any questions. In a seat high in the amphitheatre sat a young medical student who did indeed have questions but none that he could ask at the moment. He wondered if he could get
out of that room out of that hospital without being publicly sick. He was also in a queer way angry. He had never been so angry before. His name was Morton William Morton and he was by profession a dentist. The American hospital supply corporation presents. March of medicine. Some episodes in the history of hospitals. And the people working to protect your health and mine. Our story for today. The painkiller. This is Paul Bynes sickness is a misery. Injuries
hurt. This is always been true and probably always will be. But one of the great triumphs of modern medicine has been the easing of pain from the dawn of history until the time of William Martin and the last century. Pain was a part of the human condition and the cries of suffering can still be heard. Her. From entering the family her. I am the daughter of the great king. See. My body thank God to hear this pain out. In Germany during the late Middle Ages. I am an artist Dura and I have made a sketch of my body. Look closely at doctors where you see the last spot toward which the finger points.
That is where it hurts. And in Paris I am a surgeon by profession and I tell you where we do imagine ourselves suspended in time the space overran that piece. I could reach the sounds of the dividing earth almost 12 years. We should heal not but an element of off of pain uttered as if with one voice. By suffering mankind. Pain is a part of human history. Within the last century it has been well not banished from the experience of my own but certainly much eased and along with this partial conquest of pain has developed a cluster of new fields of specialization in medicine. To tell you something of these new professions I should like to introduce Dr. Max
ADOLPH. Today's anesthesiologist is a physician who after completion of his medical school training has taken an internship and then a residency during this time. He has become proficient and skilled in your management during surgery. Also before and after surgery he is also skilled in the management of shock inhalation therapy transfusion and many other areas related to surgery. He has increased markedly the safety and the comfort of the patient. He is part of a vast surgical team. The make up today's attack on disease. Thank you Doctor set up once again here is Paul Barnes. In the late 1840s when the scientific world was furiously debating the question who should get credit for the discovery of anesthesia. A French scientist remarked that William Morton was not really a likely candidate for the honor. He was a young
man an obscure American not a scientist or even a doctor of medicine. If the Frenchman had known Martin better he might have felt even more strongly. William Martin was a sort of pre-holiday show our hero a rather brash young man who wanted chiefly to make his fortune as a Boston dentist and to marry the attractive 18 year old Elizabeth Whitman a graduate of Miss Porter's Select School for Young Ladies by Thanksgiving of 1843. He had made some progress with the second project. He was actually invited to stay at the Whitman home in Farmington Connecticut. It was charming with a lot of very pretty good news. I didn't know you were there. Mind you I don't know much about music but I like that. Thank you William. Did you speak to father for the first time. You know I I don't think
he really dislikes me. Do you read him of course not. It's only it's only that the Whitman's I've been going to get since 16:30 a very influential people. Well it must be true. I find you very influential. Do you truly truly. But I explained at the Mortons I've been in Massachusetts and 17:00 and always been poor but honest. Not any longer lasy. I don't mean to be poor. Very well William. But do please be honest to see do you see I would not have you a poor man's wife. I wanted to be a doctor. But I had no money for medical school so I became a dentist. I am a good dentist Lizzie. Maybe the best on the whole North American continent. Oh I believe that already I made the best the most beautiful vase Dete ever seen on this earth. I liked that comfortable. Have I shown you my clipping from the Boston Post.
Yes I I did. Oh well yes but I forget what it said. Oh well just listen to this you understand this was a woman who had lost all her upper teeth now. She was induced to call on Dr Martin at whose office. To her great delight she had a whole set of teeth inserted upon the atmospheric suction principle. In a few hours after she took her seat for the operation. I hear that Lizzie a few hours. Wonderful. You know what is it really is. Then the clapping goes on. Instead of it being found impossible for them to be supported on this principle. All four pound weight was attached to the plate and raised from the floor the plate remaining foreign minutes place. You're right let's see it is a wonderful thing and I'm sure it will be a success. The only thing is why must they suffer so. Are growing.
Good evening I'm Robert Young not a doctor but an actor. Well even allowing for the difference between acting and realize I do have a feeling for families and for children which is one reason why I'm speaking to you now. You have been listening to the story of William Morton the man who first used ether to relieve the pain of surgery. But perhaps you don't know that today the relief of pain. What doctors call anesthesiology offers a specialized and rewarding career within the field of medicine. I am thinking especially at this moment of what the anesthesiologist can do for the child in pain. The child who must undergo surgery in soothing his fears in making his treatment painless and safe. Truthfully I cannot think of any kind of work more valuable and rewarding than that of the physician who wards off pain and fear for the sick child. Why don't you inquire now about the possibilities of a career in this wonderful field of medicine. We are
going. God. Willing. This is Paul Barnes again. At a recent meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists a speaker discussed new developments in the easing of pain new drugs and new ways of administering them have vastly expanded our field. Only a few years ago we were giving surgical patients what some doctors called the garbage anesthetic a little of this a little of that and a little of something else. Today we have better equipment including vastly improved vaporizers and better drugs. More than this. We are beginning to learn how to manage intractable pain the pain of arthritis of neurology
of cancer. These are acutely painful illnesses which cannot as yet be cured. We can try to make an durable exactly one hundred twenty one years earlier. WILLIAM MARTIN heard a lecture on the same subject at the Harvard Medical School. Delivered by the famous Dr. John Collins Warren Payne gentlemen is the NRA. It is pain which drives patients to suicide before they replace the terrors of the healing knife. It is pain and the fear of pain which kills almost as often and this certainly as an infection or hemorrhage. It is a pain which drives the surgeon to race through his work competing with his fellows in haste. But but what are we to do. The relief of pain and surgery is a fantasy Mishler ism is quackery night restocks idea gas is criminally dangerous to use ether that sweet vitriol of ancient times is even
worse. No no gentleman as the French surgeon Delco has said to escape pain and surgical operations is a kind of mirror which we're not permitted to look for in our day. A cutting instrument in pain an operative medicine are two words which never present themselves the one without the other in the mind of the patient. And it's necessary for us surgeons to admit their association. Gentlemen there is no answer to pay in. A few days later much depressed. William Morton went nervously to witness his first operation an amputation performed by that same Doctor Warren. To.
Get a little make of the mole would be regarded as successful. The patient was alive at the end of it. He will be comforted for gang greed is not set in order in the next few minutes. He does not die of surgical. A lot of us think. Creatures should have to bear such torture. My gentle. You are really to come. Warren himself says that there is no answer. It can't be Lissie there must be an answer. That poor fellow there has to be an answer and I'm sure you will find it. Do you watch. Warren says mesmerism is a fraud. I've tried brandy and laudanum of my own patients hard enough but what else is there. When you were working with Dr Wales you thought only his poor heart was in his nighters oxide laughing gas.
He thought that was the answer. Even had one of his own teeth pulled to prove it you know. But I shall never forget the day when he tried to demonstrate at the Harvard Medical School a complete failure. They brought him out of the operating room. Boris Well you know you always thought very highly of Dr. Charles Jackson as a scientist even though he is such an unpleasant man. That's true but why do you think of Jackson. Well when you studied chemistry with him did he never say anything of this problem did you. Why Lissi he did. He spoke he spoke of Miss parrots do. What do you mean making fun. I was only trying to help. Oh no actually it it just slipped my mind. Mr. Parrot came to my office last July. She had a badly decayed dude. So painful that I could when I could scarcely examine it let alone treat it. I thought of the preparation which Dr. Jackson and I discussed. I see you but few drops in the mist parents tooth and you know it
worked. She had no sensation whatever in that tooth just a few drops of chloral ether and she had no pain. But if there. Was nothing easy. For her. From the sounds. As well read his way through the various medical textbooks he found that ether was well known to a chemist and regarded with deep history. When you. Do you are you alright. Alyse. Yes. Sorry Lesley I. Didn't mean to frighten you. Well the little experiment is all. Let me help you up. Nothing to worry about my dear just now. Just an experiment with you three again I suppose. Oh I just spotted this mentally stuck. But it was worms then goldfish and all poor talking pig and now you know when you do you don't know how fearful I
am. It's all right. List seeds. All right no more sleeping goldfish or neg for that matter I think I've been learned what I need to know. I think I've found the answer. Eh on. Or off. This is Robert Young again. A few minutes ago I spoke of a medical specialty call anesthesiology. What is an anesthesiologist. He is a doctor of medicine who devotes his whole professional career to the relief of pain. He is a man with special training or experience and usually both in his field. He not only gives the patient anesthetics He may also quite literally breathe for him or give him medicines which regulate his pulse blood pressure heart action or body temperature. He is to understate the fact terribly an important man to anyone who undergoes surgery. If you are ambitious to be vitally important
to other human beings to give crucial help when they most need help why don't you investigate the possibility of a career in anesthesiology. We. Will. Prevail. We're we are. By early October. Eight hundred forty six. William Morton was ready for the great test of his new discovery. He knew that his pain killing method would have to pass the scrutiny of John Collins Warren the chief surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. He would have to demonstrate what either could do. He could see the skeptical faces of the doctors and students in the operating room. He could hear the boos and catcalls. Well the only way out was forward. He paid a call on Dr. Warren. Well sit down young man sit down I guess. Now what's
this young Biglow tells me about you a painless tooth extraction you attended my lecture on cerebral stimulus didn't you heard me quote. To escape pain in surgical operations as a commuter. Yes sir I did. And I think you know more than Valpo knows do you. That's an embarrassing question Dr. Warren. An unfair one. I retract it. Very well. What do you have in mind. I I'd like to demonstrate a new method of performing surgical operations without pain to the patient. I I'd like to demonstrate it before the medical faculty and students at the hospitals are without pain. You mean not at all. Without pain Dr. Warren. Indeed. How do you know. Because I performed a number of tooth extraction with complete success. I wrote these papers there if you would like to glance at them. Now here here is a testimonial from my
first patient. Even frost. And here certainly. Yes. Yes he seems enthusiastic and in what else have we here. Boy of sixteen very live 16 molar extracted. Yes. Dr. Morton You seem to be doing well with these tooth extraction. Why risk your success at a demonstration which may end in disaster. My success is not as important to me as it once was. If my method would eliminate the torture of surgery it would be criminal not to know it's there. I say let it be put to the test. I agree with you sir. All right. Make your preparations. You will hear from him soon. Home of 14 years.
I write at the request of Dr. J.C. Warren to invite you to be present on Friday morning at 10 o'clock at the hospital to administer to a patient who is then to be operated upon the preparation which you have invented to diminish the son's ability to pain yours respec. Let's see let's see the letter is here to demonstrate on Friday. Dearest mother the night before the fatal demonstration William worked very late on his new inhaler. I was dreadfully nervous but of course I couldn't help understanding that if the test failed he would be ruined like poor doctor wills. And suppose the patient should die. But I didn't say anything like that of course. Well he rested a little rose early and rushed away as he left he cried out Good bye Lizzie.
Wish me luck. I'm late I can't be late. Good bye. Reason to get them in and get college students before beginning this operation which seems likely to be of the greatest importance to the art of surgery. I wish to say a few words. I've been in 40 years a surgeon in Boston on every instance when the night has been applied to live tissue. There was pain. I doubt not that every one of my colleagues among operating Surgeons has had the same distressing experience and know now we have a gentleman who tells us that he has a liquid preparation by the inhalation of which the pain will be entirely done away with in the operation. Dr. Morton a dentist of the city wished for an opportunity to test its power in a surgical
operation. So I asked him to be present this morning. Since he has not appeared. We missed the good doctor. Dr. Warren I. I beg your pardon sir. And yours gentlemen. When you say your patients just read it it is Mr. Gilbert Abbott. Dr. Morton Are you afraid Mr. I don't know. I feel confident stock turn I will do exactly as you tell me. You could take this tube into your mouth Mr Abbott and breathe deeply and regularly. If you already have it. Not yet. Did you feel that Mr Abbott. No no no on my
nothing in a deep sleep. Like finish now I've been in this thread it was rabbit. Society here you know. Did you feel any Noah nor pain. It was like. Oh. Great My next. Point No pain in this. Gentlemen it gentlemen. Gentlemen please this is know how much we have today seen something of supreme importance. Surgery once and for all has been robbed of its terrors. Dr. Lloyd and my congratulations.
This is Robert Young again. I'd like to tell you something about the nurse anesthetist. She is a highly trained specialist who combines professional nursing skills with the science of anesthesia. It seems particularly appropriate to me that women should have an important part in relieving the pain of surgery of childbirth. After all the business of comforting of being a relieving is one of woman's finest roles. But the relief of pain is only one aspect of a nurse's work. One of the many valuable functions you might perform if you chose a career in medicine. Why don't you make it your business to find out at once how you can find a rewarding life work in one of the medical fields. To go. There is much more to the story of William Morton and most of it unhappily as a
tragic and depressing tale. Perhaps it is as well to remember Morton as we left him standing in the operating room of Massachusetts General Hospital. Happy in his triumph after his demonstration came all the wonderful later methods of anesthesia as the new technique came to be called chloroform ethylene cycle of propane. The muscle relaxants such as Karate many men before and after Morton's time made their contributions to the relief of pain from Paracelsus. It was a Humphry Davy and Horace Welles to the thousands of skilled researchers and technicians now working in the field. But perhaps of them all. William Morton deserves the greatest credit. His demonstration was the breakthrough and he was the man with courage enough to take responsibility for the success or failure of the great idea. A monument was erected to William Morton by the citizens of Boston.
Perhaps the inscription which it bears is as good a tribute as any to his great achievement. William Martin. Inventor and revealer of anesthetic inhalation. By whom. Pain in surgery was averted and are now. Before her in all time surgery was agony. Since her. Siamese has control of pain. MARCH OF MADISON some episodes in the history of hospitals and the people who work in them. To protect your health and mine. Much of medicine is
presented by American hospital supply corporation. Appearing on this program where Eloise comer Paul Barnes Ron macadam and Bill Gross. This is Martin Maloney speaking. Research for a medical and historical detail on this series as provided by the research department of Encyclopaedia Britannica. If you would like a copy of the script used in this broadcast or information on careers in the fields of medicine and health please send your name and address on a postcard to health careers. Post Office Box four to seven. Evanston Illinois hi. This program was distributed by national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
The march of medicine
Dr. William Morton: The pain killer
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WMAQ (Radio station : Chicago, Ill.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the story of Dr. William Morton. It also includes a public service announcement by actor Robert Young.
Series Description
Drama series highlighting important moments in medicine. Each program also includes a public service announcement related to medicine or hospitals.
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Producing Organization: WMAQ (Radio station : Chicago, Ill.)
Speaker: Young, Robert, 1907-1998
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-4-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:35
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Chicago: “The march of medicine; Dr. William Morton: The pain killer,” 1966-12-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “The march of medicine; Dr. William Morton: The pain killer.” 1966-12-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: The march of medicine; Dr. William Morton: The pain killer. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from