Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Charles T. Jackson's A Manual of Etherization

I posted last week about Josiah P. Flagg's The Family Dentist, a new acquisition for our History of Dentistry collection. I mentioned that Flagg and his brother were both involved in disputes around the discovery of etherization in the mid-19th century (Massachusetts General Hospital's "A Celebration of Ether" includes a short summary of the ether controversy). Another recent acquisition is an artifact of this fascinating moment in medical history.

Jackson, Charles T. A Manual of Etherization: Containing Directions for the Employment of Ether, Chloroform, and Other Anaesthetic Agents by Inhalation, in Surgical Operations, Intended for Military and Naval Surgeons, and All Who May Be Exposed to Surgical Operations; with Instructions for the Preparation of Ether and Chloroform, and for Testing Them for Impurities. Comprising, Also, a Brief History of the Discovery of Anaesthesia. Boston: J. B. Mansfield, 1861.

This book contains Charles T. Jackson's claim to his discovery of anesthesia, and also includes chapters on the administration of ether and its effects. Of the major claimants to the discovery of anesthesia, Jackson was easily the least credible. He also claimed to have invented the telegraph and guncotton, and to have discovered the digestive processes of the stomach before Beaumont.

Our copy of this book contains two interesting inscriptions:

"Charles Roberts Esq / Editor Bangor Evening Times / with the respects of the publisher"

Some quick internet research reveals that the book's first owner was Charles Phelps Roberts (1822-1914). Phelps graduated from Bowdoin College and practiced law before turning his attention to journalism. He edited several different newspapers in Bangor during the 1850s-1860s. He also wrote poems! His "The Sleep of Nature" is in an anthology of Maine poets on Google books.

The second inscription:

"W W Fellows / Bangor / Maine"

This would be William Warren Fellows, (1835-1920) who was an engineer with Bangor's city waterworks, and a leader in the Bangor Historical Society.

Jackson's claim to the discovery of etherization will be cataloged for our rare book collections and available for research in Historical Collections & Archives.

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