We have our regular elections for members of Congress, Senators, and chief officers of the general government. Men are sent to the seat of go vernment to legislate for the welfare of the nation, by making such laws as are necesa- ry for the good of the people, and adopting such measures as w ill add to the prosperity and honor o f the United Commonwealths. It is supposed that these men are acquainted with the wants of the public, and that they will examine every subject legally brought before them, with scrupulo us care, and act upon the same in all honesty, without favor, fear, or partiality. Within a few years there has grown up a most dangerous sytem of outer legislation; this is called the “ Third House, of C o ngress,” and is com posed of what are termed “ lobby members.” Our country must awake to the dangerous influences of this house,” for they are often seductive and unscrupulous. Of this we are l'ully persuaded by the evidence placed before us respecting the • Ether Discovery,” and the attempt that was made to get a grant at the last sesssion of Congress, of $100,000 tor its use in the navy, army, and hospitals of the United States. In 1846 Dr. C. T. Jackson, and W. T. G. Morton, dentist of Boston, secured a patent for rendering persons insensible to pain, by inhaling ether, so that surgxal operations, such as extracting teeth, amputating limbs, &c. , could be performed during the short period of insensibility. By some means it appears that Mr. Morton has obtained the ruling control of the patent, but a certain Mr, Eddy, of Boston has, (at least had) also an active share in it. To compensate Mr. Morton for his discovery, he petitioned last Congress, and the petition was referred to committees in the house and Senate. When Dr. Jackson heard about this attempt of Morton, he hurried to Washington to present his claims. An amendment, however, was tacked to one of the hurried appropriation bills in the Senate which proposed to award $tOO,OOG to Mr. Morton, but this a ward never was made. The minority report of the House of Representatives, by the Hon. Ed ward Stanly, of N. C, and the Hon. Alex. Evans. ofMri.. the latter a scientific gentleman of reputation completely establishes the fad, as we believe, that Mr. Morton has no just claims to the discovery of etherization. It is an able and strong report, but we cannot agree with some of its conclusions. The claims of Mr. Morton. are founded upon having first applied etherization ill October 1846, to perform a successful operation on a patient. The claims of Dr. Jackson are not upon having performed the first experiment upon a patient, but in having discovered anaestheia in the winter of 1841 or 1842, by inhaling ether vapor to destroy the injurious effects ofchlorinegas, upon his own lungs, which he had inhaled during some of his experiments. The experiment upon himself convinced him, to use his own language, “ that he coul d be rendered insensible to pain for some time before unconsciousness took place, and that this state of insensibility of the nerves continued for a sufficient length of time to admit of a surgical operation, and that ether could be safely inhaled into the lungs to an extent before believed to be dangerous.” He never, it seems, did perform a surgical experiment with it before 1846, but he communicated his opinions and experience to a number of respectable gentlemen whose testimony is beyond reproach . It is also asserted, and proof is adduced, that he informed Mr. Morton how to make his first experiment, and gave him his first idea of ethc,ization, So far, Dr. Jackson's claims are impregnable ; but what constitutes the true foundation to the title of this discovery. The report of the minority saysj “no experiments of verification performed by another can take the right of a discovery from him who first form ed the induction, and prescribed the means of verifying it.” By this principle of judging, Sir Humphrey Davy has previous claims. He said, “ as nitrous oxyde in its extensive operation, appears capable of destroying pain, it may probably be used with advantage during surgical operations, in which no great effusion of blood takes place.” Here is the induction, and we find that in November 184-4, about two years previous to the first experiment by Mr. Morton (as directed by Dr. Jackson,) Dr. Wells, of Hartford, Conn. , at his own suggestion, had one of his teeth extracted by Dr. Riggs, while under the influence' ol nitrous oxide gas. From the evidence before us, Dr. Wells was the first person in the world who applied and practised etherization in surgery. It may be said that nitrous oxyde is a dangerous gas, and the claims of Dr. Jackson will rest upon the safety of discovering sulphuric ether. This is a different question; such a claim would be for the kind of substance used, not the effect obtained beyond its greater safety. By the rem arks of Dr. Wa rren, of Boston, in the November number of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, it appears that he does not consider chloroform, or sulphuric ether safe agents,' and he prefers a compound chloric ether. What is it that constitues a true title to a discover'.' This is an important question, and one very diffieult to settle sometimes.— For example, it is suspected that oxygen is a compound body; this view has been published in the series of articles, Vol. 5, Scientific American, by Dr. Nelson, but as yet it has not been demonstrated, If it should yet be discovered that oxygen is a compound body, who will be entitled to the claim ot discoverer The one who gave the hint which led to the experimental ' proo or the demonstrator The latter surely, but the former deserves his share ofthe honor also. Upon this principle of reasoning, Dr. Wells' claims to etherization stand out practically the strongest. Dr. Jackson is said to be very cautious, and in this respect not unlike some other discoverers, but; if a person has made a valuable discovery, why is he cautious about it, if he has confidence in its merits; At the present day, when the means of establishing honorable claims to new discoveries are so easy, only a few lines published in a proper journal, there is no excuse for any man allowing his claims to be usurped some years afterwards. In this respect we greatly blame Dr. Jackson ; if he had acted right, he wo uld have pre ve nted all this trouble about etherization now, all this tobby- ing at Washington, this great expense to- bur country, by taking up the time of Congress committees; and last not least, the proposal oftaking LOO,OOO out of the treasury United States to pay one for a discovery made by another. Dr. Jackson has not been well treated, we believe, but we suppose now how his own long silence—in the proper quarter—has been the means of causing so much trouble and expense and heartburnings in cur country, and as we have reason to believe, expense, trouble, and suffering to himself.
This article was originally published with the title "The Ether Controversy.—Dangerous Legislation" in Scientific American 8, 15, 117 (December 1852)