Dr William E Clarke

In January 1842 in America, William E Clarke of Rochester New York, who was an ardent fan of ether frolics, applied ether via a towel to Miss Hobbie whilst a dentist Elijah Pope, painlessly removed one of her teeth. Because they never recorded it at the time, they missed an opportunity for everlasting fame. Historians only mention it briefly.163

William E Clarke was born on Feb. 22, 1819, Lebanon, New London County, Connecticut, USA He married Harriet Hale in 1859, however she died in 1864.

He remarried the next year to Mary Reed the day after Christmas. He served in the Army with distinction as surgeon during the America Civil war.


Dr. Lyman described the event that gives claim to Clarke as being the first.:

"During the year 1839 a young student of chemistry in the city of Rochester, New York, William E. Clarke, by name, now a veteran physician of Chicago, was in the habit of entertaining his companions with inhalations of ether. At Berkshire Medical College, during the winter of 1841-1842 Clarke diligently propagated this convivial method among his fellow students. Emboldened by these experiences in January, 1842, having returned to Rochester, he administered ether from a towel to a young woman named Hobbie and one of her teeth was then extracted without pain by a dentist named Elijah Pope."

So far as has been ascertained this is the first historic account of the successful administration of ether, resulting in a painless surgical operation of any sort.

The reason he never pursued it was, Professor E. M. Moore, Clarke's preceptor, told him that the entire incident could be explained as the hysterical reaction of women to pain.

At Moore's suggestion, Clarke discontinued his experimentation.164

Therefore according to the research of Dr. Lyman, Dr. Elijah Pope was the first to perform a surgical procedure under general anesthesia and Dr. William Edwin Clarke was the first to administer the ether. I prefer to think of them as a team. Dr. Pope died before Dr. Lyman's research was published.


He died in 1898 in Chicago and was laid to rest there.305




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