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Can J Anaesth. 2014 Mar;61(3):263-8. doi: 10.1007/s12630-013-0104-7. Epub 2014 Jan 14.

Special article: Horace Nelson MD, John Webster LDS--unrecognized Canadian anesthesia pioneers.

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Department of Anesthesia, McGill University Health Centre, McGill University, Room D10.142, 1650 Cedar Avenue, Montreal, QC, H3G 1A4, Canada,



The timing of the earliest reported ether anesthetics in early 1847, in regions to become Canada in July 1867, was examined using information from on-line and library-based sources. Previous authors had identified the first reported ether anesthetic given by a visiting American dentist in January 1847 in Saint John, New Brunswick. Nevertheless, they had reported three different anesthetics as the second occurrence - which would denote the first anesthetic given by a resident of Canada.


We confirmed that there were no reports of ether anesthetics being given in Canada before that reported on January 18, 1847 in Saint John. The information available for our review indicates that the second ether anesthetic, and the first by a Canadian, was given in Montreal by a dentist, Dr. John Horatio Webster, on February 20, 1847. The surgical assistant for that operation, Dr. Horace Nelson, later reported on animal and human experiments with ether, which he had led in Montreal starting in January 1847.


Earlier authors, who may not have had access to the information now available, came to incorrect conclusions about the first ether anesthetic reported to have been given by a Canadian. Current information indicates that John Webster gave the first reported anesthetic in Montreal on February 20, 1847 following experiments with ether led by Horace Nelson. Both Webster and Nelson deserve recognition as Canadian anesthesia pioneers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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