VIII. NINETEENTH-CENTURY MEDICINE
It remains to be added that in the subsequent bickerings over the discovery—such bickerings as follow every great advance—two other names came into prominent notice as sharers in the glory of the new method. Both these were Americans—the one, Dr. Charles T. Jackson, of Boston; the other, Dr. Crawford W. Long, of Alabama. As to Dr. Jackson, it is sufficient to say that he seems to have had some vague inkling of the peculiar properties of ether before Morton's discovery. He even suggested the use of this drug to Morton, not knowing that Morton had already tried it; but this is the full measure of his association with the discovery. Hence it is clear that Jackson's claim to equal share with Morton in the discovery was unwarranted, not to say absurd.
Dr. Long's association with the matter was far different and altogether honorable. By one of those coincidences so common in the history of discovery, he was experimenting with ether as a pain-destroyer simultaneously with Morton, though neither so much as knew of the existence of the other. While a medical student he had once inhaled ether for the intoxicant effects, as other medical students were wont to do, and when partially under influence of the drug he had noticed that a chance blow to his shins was painless. This gave him the idea that ether might be used in surgical operations; and in subsequent years, in the course of his practice in a small Georgia town, he put the idea into successful execution. There appears to be no doubt whatever that he performed successful minor operations under ether some two or three years before Morton's final demonstration; hence that the merit of first using the drug, or indeed any drug, in this way belongs to him. But, unfortunately, Dr. Long did not quite trust the evidence of his own experiments. Just at that time the medical journals were full of accounts of experiments in which painless operations were said to be performed through practice of hypnotism, and Dr. Long feared that his own success might be due to an incidental hypnotic influence rather than to the drug. Hence he delayed announcing his apparent discovery until he should have opportunity for further tests—and opportunities did not come every day to the country practitioner. And while he waited, Morton anticipated him, and the discovery was made known to the world without his aid. It was a true scientific caution that actuated Dr. Long to this delay, but the caution cost him the credit, which might otherwise have been his, of giving to the world one of the greatest blessings—dare we not, perhaps, say the very greatest?—that science has ever conferred upon humanity.
A few months after the use of ether became general, the Scotch surgeon Sir J. Y. Simpson discovered that another drug, chloroform, could be administered with similar effects; that it would, indeed, in many cases produce anaesthesia more advantageously even than ether. From that day till this surgeons have been more or less divided in opinion as to the relative merits of the two drugs; but this fact, of course, has no bearing whatever upon the merit of the first discovery of the method of anaesthesia. Even had some other drug subsequently quite banished ether, the honor of the discovery of the beneficent method of anaesthesia would have been in no wise invalidated. And despite all cavillings, it is unequivocally established that the man who gave that method to the world was William T. G. Morton.
PASTEUR AND THE GERM THEORY OF DISEASE
The discovery of the anaesthetic power of drugs was destined presently, in addition to its direct beneficences, to aid greatly in the progress of scientific medicine, by facilitating those experimental studies of animals from which, before the day of anaesthesia, many humane physicians were withheld, and which in recent years have led to discoveries of such inestimable value to humanity. But for the moment this possibility was quite overshadowed by the direct benefits of anaesthesia, and the long strides that were taken in scientific medicine during the first fifteen years after Morton's discovery were mainly independent of such aid. These steps were taken, indeed, in a field that at first glance might seem to have a very slight connection with medicine. Moreover, the chief worker in the field was not himself a physician. He was a chemist, and the work in which he was now engaged was the study of alcoholic fermentation in vinous liquors. Yet these studies paved the way for the most important advances that medicine has made in any century towards the plane of true science; and to this man more than to any other single individual—it might almost be said more than to all other individuals—was due this wonderful advance. It is almost superfluous to add that the name of this marvellous chemist was Louis Pasteur.