"Anæsthesia" and "Anæsthetics"
text of Oliver Wendell Holmes letter to Dr Morton

Boston, Nov 21, 1846
Dr. Morton:-

My Dear Sir, -Everybody wants to have a hand in the great discovery. All I will do is give you a hint or two as to names, or the name, to be applied to the state produced, and to the agent.

The state should, I think, be called anæsthesia. This signifies insensibility, more particularly (as used by Linnaus and Cullen) to objects of touch. The adjective will be anæsthetic. Thus we might say, the "state of anæsthesia", or the "anæsthetic state." The means employed would be properly called the "anti-anæsthetic agent." Perhaps it might be allowable to say "anæsthetic agent"; but this admits of question.

The words anti-neuric, aneuric, neuro-leptic, neuro-lepsia, neuro-stasis, seem too anatomical; whereas the change is a physiological one. I throw these out for consideration.

I would have a name pretty soon, and consult some accomplished scholar such as President Everett, or Dr. Bigelow, Sr., before fixing upon the terms which will be repeated by the tongues of every civilized race of mankind. You could mention these words which I suggest, for their consideration; but there may be others more appropriate and agreeable.

Yours respectfully,


William Morton
Oliver Wendell Holmes