Ether Monument – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

Ether Monument

Public Garden

Statue commemorating the use of ether in anesthesia. 


Also known as The Good Samaritan, Ether Monument is a statue and fountain located inside of Boston’s Public Garden. The statue was erected to commemorate the use of ether in anesthesia and the New England Society of Anesthesiologists have adopted the fountain - unofficially - as their own.

The design has been credited to Boston architect William Robert Ware and to the sculptor who helped to shape the final structure, John Quincy Adams Ward. It stands about 40 feet tall and is the oldest monument inside one of the oldest public gardens. If you get close, you can see that the statue shows a medical doctor outfitted in medieval Moorish-Spanish garb. The doctor is holding the body of a man over his knee, using ether on a cloth to get him into the slumped state depicted.

The statue sounds a little goofy - really, a 40-foot-tall monument to ether? - but, before the discovery of the anesthetic properties of ether, many people died during surgery just because of the terrible pain. The use of ether in anesthetics helped to dramatically reduce unnecessary medical deaths. And the base of the statue tries to make that clear to any visitors that pass by. “To commemorate that the inhaling of ether causes insensibility to pain,” it reads. “First proved to the world at the Mass. General Hospital in Boston, October A.D. MDCCCXLVI.”

Massachusetts General Hospital, the site called out in the inscription as the place where the first procedure took place, is located only about a 15-minute walk from the monument. The operating theater inside of the hospital has been renamed the Ether Dome and is now protected as a National Historic Landmark.

Know Before You Go

In the park, just east of the intersection of Arlington and Marlborough Streets.

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May 17, 2011

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