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1275 Ether was discovered by Spanish chemist Raymundus Lullius and named "sweet vitriol" 1  
1540 The synthesis of ethyl ether was first performed and described by German scientist Valerius Cordus 1  
c. 1540 Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus first discovers the hypnotic effects of ether.   
1730 German scientist W.G. Frobenius changed the name of sweet vitriol to ether 1  
1790's Ether was used for recreational purposes at least as early as the 1790s, when James Graham (1745-1794) was accustomed to inhale an ounce or two several times a day, in public, "with manifest placidity and enjoyment 2  
1794 English physicians Richard Pearson and Thomas Beddoes use ether in the treatment of phthisis, catarrhal fever, bladder calculus, and scurvy at the Beddoes' Pneumatic Institute.   
1805 American physicians used ether to treat pulmonary inflammation   
c. 1840 Ether is used as a social lubricant during parties called "Ether Frolics".   
1841 Dr. Crawford Williamson Long, MD, of Jefferson, Georgia begins using ether as an anesthetic for minor surgery.   
1842 On March 30, 1842, Dr. Long removed one of the two tumors from the neck of Mr. James Venable under ether anesthesia. Dr. Long had originally learned about ether during 'ether frolics' while in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.   
Oct 16, 1846 Morton successfully demonstrated the use of Ether in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.   
Nov 1846 The word "anaesthesia" is coined by Oliver Wendell Holmes, four weeks after witnessing a demonstration of ether at Massachusetts General Hospital. 1   [More Info]
1847 Sir James Young Simpson introduced ether for use as an anesthetic during childbirth.   
Oct 1847 Chloroform's anesthetic qualities are discovered by Sir James Young Simpson (Edinburgh Professor of Midwifery). Simpson had used Ether as an obstetric anesthestic, but searched for a better alternative to avoid Ether's overpowering smell and requirement of large quantities. 3  
1870-1890 Ether drinking becomes well established in Northern Ireland. Distilled in England and Scotland, ether is imported into Dublin and Belfast and is forwarded to small-town doctors, druggists, grocers and general dealers, and is then spread by peddlers. 4  
1880 The use of anesthesia (chloroform, ether, or nitrous oxide) becomes generally accepted during surgery and childbirth.   
1890 Due to an increase in use in Ireland, Ether is scheduled in Ireland under the Poisons Act of 1870, Part II so it can only be sold by qualified pharmacists. 4  
1911 The Encyclopeaedia Britannica reported that "A dose of a little more than [a teaspoonful] of ether will produce a condition of inebriation lasting from one half to one hour, but the dose must soon be greatly increased. The after effects are, if anything, rather pleasant, and the habit of ether-drinking is certainly not so injurious as alcoholism." 5  
1923 Ireland: The Intoxicating Liquor Act increases restrictions on sale of ether. Drinking ether becomes an offense, no sales are permitted to those under 18 years of age, retail sales have to be registered. 4  
1927 Ireland: Intoxicating Liquor and Licensing Act restricts sales to doctors and dentists and requires that all sales be registered. Use decreases after this act takes effect. 4  

  1.   Anesthesia Nursing and Medicine Web Page
  2.   Lee T. "The Sedative Effects of Vaporous Ether Recognized Some Forty Years Since". Lancet. 1847;1:164. (as cited in Licit and Illicit Drugs.)
  3.   Glowa JR. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs: Inhalants. Chelsea House, 1986.
  4.   NIDA. "Perspectives on the History of Psychoactive Substance Use," Research Issues 24. 1978.
  5.   Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., s.v, "Ether". (as cited in Licit and Illicit Drugs.)