Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia

Object Details

Title:

Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia

Artist/Maker(s):

Southworth & Hawes (American, active 1844 - 1862)

Culture:

American

Place(s):

Boston, Massachusetts, United States (Place created)

Date:

late spring 1847

Medium:

Daguerreotype

Dimensions:

14.6 x 20 cm (5 3/4 x 7 7/8 in.)

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The setting for this daguerreotype is the teaching amphitheater of Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. John Collins Warren, cofounder of the hospital and professor of anatomy, stands with his hands upon the patient's thigh, explaining the proceedings to a student audience seated out of camera range. Dr. Solomon Davis Townsend, who performed the operation, stands behind Warren with his left arm akimbo. An unidentified anesthetist holds a sponge soaked in ether near the head of the patient who, curiously enough, still wears his socks.

Warren had commissioned Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes to make the first photographic record of an actual live medical operation, which was also the retiring Dr. Warren's last lecture. The doctors' heads all moved during the long exposure, causing blurring and confirming the photograph's candid circumstances.

Exhibitions
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998
The Art of the Daguerreotype (April 14 to July 12, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), April 14 to July 12, 1998
Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes (June 17, 2005 to April 9, 2006) (1887)
  • International Center of Photography, (New York), June 17 to September 4, 2005
  • George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, (Rochester), October 1, 2005 to January 8, 2006
  • Addison Gallery of American Art, (Andover), January 28 to April 9, 2006
In Focus: The Worker (November 3, 2009 to March 21, 2010) (1887)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 3, 2009 to March 21, 2010
Bibliography