Bittersweet & Fascinating History Behind Hartford Connecticut Statue
Many of us have personal experience or have loved ones who have had experience undergoing minor or major surgery where relief from pain was very much welcomed. This could have been from something as major as heart surgery or more commonly via oral surgery such as having wisdom teeth extracted.
According to Today in Connecticut History a historical milestone was celebrated this past weekend (December 10th, 1844 specifically) honoring Horace Wells for his discovery of what we all today know as anesthesia (a.k.a. "laughing gas" or nitrous oxide).
About 178 years ago, Mr. Wells was sitting in the audience among many others laughing his booty off at a performance by Gardner Colton, a former medical student. This young chap would amuse countless audiences by displaying the hilarious side effects that laughing gas had on the average Joe (or Josephine if you will). During the performance, the volunteer smashed into a bench and instead of yowling in pain, began to laugh swearing he was in no pain. "Eureka" Horace thought in his head, this would be amazing if my patients could apply this euphoric feeling to their gobs when I had to perform oral surgery.
Not wanting to use his patients as guinea pigs (kind-hearted chap he was) Horace had one of his dental assistants extract one of his own wisdom teeth after inhaling this nitrous oxide gas. Horace's experiment worked! He began successfully using this as standard practice. The dude was so righteous that he didn't want to seek a patent for this extraordinary discovery.
Though he proudly claimed to be the inventor of “pain-free dentistry,” he refused to seek a patent on any of his methods. He believed that freedom from pain should be a universal right that was “as free as the air.” ~ Today in Connecticut History
His happiness and success were short-lived as, during a historic demonstration of his discovery, a routine tooth extraction utilizing laughing gas caused a patient to cry out in pain! It was noted the patient was "just kidding" and really felt no pain at all. Even with the patient's confession, the crowd heckled poor Horace and they accused him of fraud. This horrible event was the beginning of the end for Horace. The events that followed were incredibly tragic.
The Boston incident began a tragic downward spiral for Wells, who fell into a deep depression that ultimately forced him to close his dental practice. Within the span of only a few years, he was living in New York City, estranged from his wife and only son, and experimenting on himself with combinations of ether and chloroform. Wells became addicted to the latter, which increased his already erratic behavior. On his 33rd birthday, he was arrested for throwing sulfuric acid on two women in New York City. Wells was thrown into prison. There, the medical pioneer’s life came to an end by his own hand. ~ Today in Connecticut History
This really is a horribly tragic ending to such an amazing life of selflessness and discovery for this poor guy. Ironically, despite his tragic end, his invention has helped the world lessen its pain and he is renowned for his discovery of modern anesthesia by the ADA (American Dental Association) and AMA (American Medical Association).
Hartford, in particular, has many tributes to Horace including his very own statue in Bushnell Park. His son. Charles also had a memorial constructed for him in Cedar Hill Cemetery. Hats off to the guy, may you rest in peace and know no pain. Thanks to Today in Connecticut History and YouTube's Artifactual Scholar for sharing this amazing history with us.
For more articles written by this guy, you can tap or click right here, including the one that tells us where the Fonz and Apple's mom get their pizza in Connecticut. Thanks for hanging out with me and see you all again real soon.
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