Horace Wells

Horace Wells (January 21, 1815January 24, 1848) was an American dentist who pioneered the use of anaesthesia in dentistry, specifically nitrous oxide (or laughing gas).

Life

Born in Vermont, Wells was educated in Walpole, New Hampshire before studying dentistry in Boston. After obtaining a degree, Wells set up a practice in Hartford, Connecticut, with an associate named William T.G. Morton, who would become famous for his use of ether as an anesthesia on October 18, 1846.

Wells first bore witness to the effects of laughing gas in 1844 when he volunteered to have it demonstrated on him by Gardner Quincy Colton, a member of a travelling circus. Wells felt nothing, and began utilising it on his own patients. He did not attempt to patent the discovery because he stated that pain relief should be 'as free as the air'.

He gave a demonstration to medical students at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 1845. However, the gas was improperly administered and the patient cried out in pain. The audience of students jeered at Wells and left the theatre chanting "Humbug! Humbug!" Because of this embarrassment, Wells was discredited in the medical community. Later, however, Wells successfully had one of his own teeth removed while using inhalant anesthesia, proving its uses.cite web|url=http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object.cfm?key=35&objkey=113|title=Miniature Portrait of Horace Wells|publisher=National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution|accessdate=2008-06-30]

After this disgrace, Wells gave up dentistry and became a travelling salesman for the next two years, wandering Connecticut and selling canaries, shower baths and other household items. In 1847, he left for Paris after being given a demonstration on anesthesia by his prosperous former partner William Morton.

While in Europe, selling anesthesia for Morton and acting as a European expert on the subject, Wells became addicted to chloroform. In January 1848, Wells self-experimented with chloroform for a week. He became increasingly deranged. One day, delirious, Wells rushed out into the street and threw sulfuric acid over the clothing of two prostitutes. He was committed to New York's infamous Tombs Prison. As the influence of the drug waned, Wells' mind started to clear. In despair, he realised the horror of what he had done. Wells then committed suicide, slitting an artery in his leg with a razor after inhaling an analgesic dose of chloroform to blot out the pain.

Wells is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut.

Recognition

The American Dental Association honored Wells, posthumously in 1864, as the discoverer of modern anesthesia, and the American Medical Association recognized his achievement in 1870. [ [http://www.nndb.com/people/322/000161836/ Horace Wells] ]

ee also

*James Young Simpson
*Dental Anesthesiology

References

External links

* [http://www.general-anaesthesia.com/images/horace-wells.html Dr Horace Wells (1815-1848)] Accessed: 2008-06-17

* [http://www.horacewells.piczo.com Horace Wells website]


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