Figure 7: Samuel Parkman III, 1816-1854.


Views of Samuel Parkman:  L.) Detail from Henry Bryan Hall's engraving, age c37.   M.) Parkman, age 30-31, detail of Figure 7 in EDD No. 1.   N.) Parkman, age c37, detail from the 'Boston Society for Medical Improvement' photograph, c1853. Archived at the Countway Library, Boston, and accessed through Wikipedia.

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Returning to the portraits in Hall's engraving, Samuel Parkman's visage and the contours of his body are an almost perfect match for Figure 7, after adjusting for the shift in perspective and the fact that it is the etherizer's hand on the operating chair, not his. Having established that Hall had access to the reenactment daguerreotype, proven by the flipped profiles of J. Mason Warren and Bigelow, why then is Parkman's portrayal not also flipped by the printing process of the engraving? The answer has two parts. The first part is that Hall's model for Parkman was copied from the 'Boston Society for Medical Improvement' group photograph taken in 1853. The second part is that Hall's portrait of Parkman proves the existence of an original daguerreotype of the group photograph. Hall modeled Parkman from the original daguerreotype, and not from the low resolution, washed-out, flipped paper copy that is displayed in the panel above.(48)   In the paper print, Parkman has aged six years and appears to have taken on weight, his brow is furrowed and he seems to be scowling at the camera, distorting the brow line and narrowing the palpebral fissures – expressing the "surly reserve" referenced by Darwin in my introduction. His dorsum nasi appears much fuller than it was in reality. Because Hall had access to the pristine details of the original daguerreotype of the Medical Improvement Society, these distortions don't appear in his portrait of Parkman, except for the weight gain, the change in the part of his hair, and the effects of aging. It is an unqualified match for Figure 7, especially noticeable in his aquiline nose, hair line, prominent chin and cheek bones, puffy lower eyelids – all distinctive features that are almost invisible in the paper print. Until the original Medical Improvement Society daquerreotype is found, Hall's engraving should be the resource for identifying Figure 7 as Parkman, though doing so dismantles the reenactment scenario that claims it is Bigelow. The table below should help to settle the dispute:

  1. Dolichocephalic.
  2. Prominent supraorbital ridge.
  3. Prominent high cheekbones.
  4. Jutting chin.
  5. Aquiline nose and alar grooves.
  6. Puffy lower eyelids.
  7. Arch of eyebrows: skewed toward temples.
  8. Triangular face.
  9. Reserved affect.

  1. Brachycephalic.
  2. Average supraorbital ridge.
  3. Sunken lower cheekbones.
  4. Average chin.
  5. Hanging columella, full apex.
  6. Unremarkable lower lids.
  7. Arch of eyebrows: higher and centered.
  8. Rectangular face.
  9. Open affect.

Samuel Parkman was never called to testify in the Morton patent trials, so his chances are diminished he assisted in the Abbott surgery, and he is rarely more than a footnote in ether historiography. Hodges only mentions his name once as a member of the surgical staff and lists his operations after the Abbott surgery in an appendix, along with those of the other MGH surgeons.(49 »»)  Of all the doctors involved with the inception of ether at MGH, Parkman had considerable personal experience of its effects, revealed in a letter written by Morrill Wyman (1812-1903). The letter was addressed to John Collins Warren's grandson and namesake, who included it in his inauguration speech on the history of anesthesia.(50 »»)

CAMBRIDGE, February 15, 1897

MY DEAR DR. WARREN: Your note with regard to experiments with ether at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1836 has reached me.
      I remember well our amusement with sulphuric ether; Dr. Samuel Parkman was the House-surgeon, I was House-physician, and Mr. C. K. Whipple House-apothecary.
      We were especially jubilant when Mr. Whipple ordered a fresh quantity of ether, for it was apt to deteriorate by keeping. Each tested it by breathing it from the bottle till it produced unconsciousness, the others watching the different effects upon each.
      We also experimented upon rats in a glass-globe until they were entirely motionless and often wondered that the treatment did them no harm. But with all our experiments we never thought of trying the sensibility under ether, even by pricking with a pin. It was a great oversight.

As ever, sincerely yours, Morrill Wyman

Wyman was appointed House-physician, August 7, 1836, and Parkman was appointed House-surgeon two weeks later. Both participated in the recreational "ether-frolics" that brightened the parlors of Philadelphia and Boston medical students and young professionals in the 1830's.

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Detail from Hinckley's painting of the Abbott operation. Like Hall and Keller, Hinckley modeled his portrait of Parkman from the "Boston Society for Medical Improvement" photograph. It is a more youthful, painterly interpretation of Parkman that loses the aquilinity in his features. His prominent cheekbones, and chin were softened somewhat, but still visible.

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Each of the artist depictions of the Abbott surgery discussed above feature Parkman as one of the centermost principals, and yet his role has been mainly ignored by historians, his face expunged from their rosters of the "reenactment" surgeons. The neglect is remarkable considering that Parkman conducted the sixth historic ether operation at Mass. General Hospital on December 9, 1846, and his report on the case, published in BMSJ, constituted the third classical paper on anesthesia. The operation, a case of urgent care reduction for a dislocated shoulder sustained by a "stout carpenter" named William Eckels, will be discussed below as one of the possible identities of the patient in the reenactment daguerreotype.

George Parkman, 1790-1849.


Comparative views of Samuel and George Parkman:    O.) Samuel Parkman, detail of Figure 7 in EDD No. 1.    P.) George Parkman, possible attribution of Figure 1 in EDD No. 1 – unverified.   Q.) George Parkman, detail (reversed) from Ether Dome Daguerreotype No. 2, also unverified.

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Adding to the confusion of the Ether Dome iconography is the appearance of "fancy waistcoat" figure in EDD No. 2, who I believe is one of the Parkmans, either Samuel or his uncle George. Trace evidence to support this claim is found in Keller, who used the body of this figure for his portrait of Samuel Parkman in his painting. Lowry & Lowry identified Morton in the "fancy waistcoat" figure, whereas Haridas purported Bigelow, based on Bigelow's penchant for flamboyant attire. However, George Parkman also wore expensive vests, notably one in purple silk on the day of his murder in 1849. Morton, too, had a taste for flashy haberdashery, described in Slade's memoir and quoted under the Dalton segment below. A prominent protruding jaw was a distinguishing anatomical trait of the Parkman family, and George Parkman was caricatured in the press for it. His chin bone and mandible were destroyed when he was murdered and dismembered by Harvard Professor John Webster in 1849, and it was entered into evidence during the trial. Morton was George Parkman's dentist, but he testified in part for the defense, disavowing that the "mineral teeth" introduced as evidence could be identified as his appliance.

A consideration for George Parkman as Figure 1 in the reenactment daguerreotype will be premised on Jonathan Mason Warren's March 13th surgery, discussed under that segment, however the deep shadows and degradation in the matrix of the daguerreotype prevent establishing an identity with any confidence. Nor is there any certainty to the identity of the "fancy waistcoat" figure in EDD No. 2, whose attire seems out of character within the formal construct of an operating theater and stationed as he is at the head of the patient, as though he was there to supervise the anesthesia.

48.) Unknown photographer (c1853): "Oliver Wendell Holmes and members of the Boston Society for Medical Improvement." [Boston]; archived at the Francis A. Countway Library, Picture Collection, Ser. 249, box 3, f. 3. See appendix for information on the date.

49.) Hodges, RM (1891), "A Narrative of Events Connected with the Introduction of Sulphuric Ether Into Surgical Use." Boston: Little, Brown, and Company;

50.) Warren, Jr., JC (1897); see page 11 for Wyman's letter.

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