Ether inhaler invented by William T. G. Morton, about 1846
Morton, a Massachusetts dentist, was one of several inventors with a good claim to being the inventor of anesthesia. This early ether inhaler came to the Smithsonian in 1911 from Morton's son, who, eager to secure Morton's place in history, donated it "in honor of my father." But as with so many inventions, others have a good claim to credit, too. Crawford Long, a Georgia physician, had used ether a few years earlier but had never published his experiment. When a Smithsonian radio show in the 1930s mentioned Morton as the inventor, the Institution received a sharp letter from Senator Richard Russell of Georgia: "We Georgians are very proud of Dr. Crawford W. Long's discovery." Long is one of two Georgians represented in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. According to the curator in charge of the medical collections, the Smithsonian had a simple lesson to learn from the Morton-Long debate: "the necessity of keeping clear of this and other like controversies."