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Henry David Thoreau
(1817 - 1862)

picture of Henry Thoreau

American naturalist and author Henry David Thoreau took ether only once in his life. His dentist administered the volatile liquid in 1851 so he could more easily extract some of Thoreau's diseased teeth. Thoreau wrote of his ether-induced experiences in his journal:

"By taking the ether the other day I was convinced how
far asunder a man could be separated from his senses"

"You expand like a seed in the ground. You exist in your roots, like a tree in winter. If you have an inclination to travel, take the ether: you go beyond the farthest star."

Other writers explored drug-induced mystical experiences at greater length, notably William James.

Ether has "abuse potential", like another former staple of dentistry, the local anaesthetic cocaine. If ether were a novel investigational agent today, then it would probably never gain a product license. But the main disadvantage of ether is that it is extremely flammable.


"Ether Frolics"
Utopian Surgery
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics