View from the Chair-Elect, Irv Levy, Fall 2018

Irvin J. LevyTypically, these essays relate to current divisional business and agendas relevant to our membership; however, in this offering, I will take a different tack. I am delighted that we will welcome many of you to my home area for the Boston national meeting this August. Chemistry has a longstanding historical significance here. Most are aware of the many outstanding institutions of higher education in Boston and Cambridge that continue to push the envelope of human knowledge in the chemical domain. But fewer know that chemistry is, literally, of monumental proportion in our history.

Each October, one week before Mole Day, chemically-minded Bostonians celebrate October 16 as “Ether Day”. Yes, there is a day-long celebration of diethyl ether (CAS #60-29-7).
Perhaps other cities celebrate specific molecules. If so, please share this with me! But Boston surely does. And why? On October 16, 1846, at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in a surgical theater now known as the Ether Dome a surgeon demonstrated to an audience the use of diethyl ether for the painless removal of a tumor from the neck of a patient, an historical moment in medicine. Afterwards the surgeon declared, “This is no humbug” which is something I frequently say, cryptically, when handing a bottle of diethyl ether to a student.

The Ether Dome is open to the public and is worth the wander over to the campus of MGH, Monday-Friday between 9:00 and 5:00 to see this site that is  both a National Historic Landmark and an entry in the Atlas Obscura. For more info, including location: click here.

“But,” as they say in the infomercials, “wait, there’s more!”

After visiting the Ether Dome you might want to, next, amble to Boston’s Public Garden in one corner of which you will find the Garden’s oldest monument. And guess what? It’s the Ether Monument, which bears this inscription, “In gratitude for the relief of human suffering by the inhaling of ether.” What better places for a chemist to take a selfie than in the Ether Dome and beside the Ether Monument? You can post them to social media next October 16 to celebrate Ether Day!

I would love to receive your photos if you make this pilgrimage. You can send then to me at -- I anticipate that we will have a wonderful time at the ACS meeting in Boston and I will look forward to seeing many of you there.

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