The Ether Dome – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

The Ether Dome

19th-century operating theatre in which the use of ether was first demonstrated - plus, a skeleton and a mummy! 


The Ether Dome, in Boston, MA, was a working operating theater at the Massachusetts General Hospital between 1821 and 1868. Dr. William T.G. Morton, a Boston dentist, made medical history in this location in 1846, when he administered ether anesthetic to a patient just before Dr. John Collins Warren operated on a tumor in the patient’s neck.

The patient slept comfortably during the operation and upon awakening announced that he had felt no pain. News of this first demonstration of surgical anesthesia spread rapidly, transforming medical practice throughout the world.

The beautifully preserved operating theater, featuring a copper dome topped with windows that let in natural light, is nestled within the huge, still operating Mass General Hospital.

Oddly, the Ether Dome also has an Egyptian mummy on display, laying down in a glass case, its white teeth gleaming next to its coffin. Across from the mummy is a skeleton in a matching case. And surrounding the edges of the stage are antique surgical instruments.

But the real delight of the Ether Dome lies in the historic first use of ether - also on display, in the form of an enormous painting of that fateful surgery in 1846.

Know Before You Go

Massachusetts General Hospital's main entrance is at 55 Fruit Street in Boston; mass transit access from the Charles/MGH station on the MBTA red line. Within the hospital, receptionists at the front desk will furnish visitors with an informational flier and directions to the Ether Dome.

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