Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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COLTON, Gardner Quincy, scientist, born in Georgia, Vermont, 7 February, 181"4. He was the twelfth child of Walter Colton, one of the pioneer settlers of the state. Gardner received a common-school education, and at the age of sixteen learned the trade of chair-making, which he followed in St. Albans until 1835, when he went to New York, worked at his trade, and wrote for the press, at the same time improving" every opportunity for culture. In 1842 he studied medicine in the office of the late Willard Parker, M. D., and at the College of physicians and surgeons. .In 1844 he began the delivery of philosophical and chemical lectures, giving exhibitions of electric phenomena and of the effects of nitrous-oxide or "laughing-gas." An experiment at one of these lectures led directly to the first surgical operation ever performed with the aid of an anaesthetic. On the evening of 10 December, 1844, Dr. Colton was lecturing in Hartford, Connecticut A young man named Cooley inhaled the gas, and while under its influence fell over a bench and was bruised severely. After the effect of the gas had passed, he told Dr. Horace Wells, a dentist who was present, that he had been conscious of no pain. Dr. Wells perceived the significance of the fact, and, after consultation with Dr. Colton, made an appointment for the next day, inhaled the gas, and had a tooth extracted by a fellow-dentist, Dr. Riggs, of Hartford. The operation was painless, and led by natural steps to the general use of anaesthetics. Prior to this time the knowledge of anaesthetics had not extended beyond theory. Dr. Colton gives Dr. Wells full credit for the discovery. In 1847 Dr. Colton devised an electric motor, and first exhibited it during his lectures at Pittsburgh. The machine was made from his plans by a mathematical-instrument-maker named Lilly, and is believed to be the first electric locomotive operated in this country. It is fully described in Prescott's "Dynamo-Electricity" (New York, 1884). In 1849 he went to California, and for several months worked in the newly discovered gold-fields and practiced medicine. Returning to San Francisco near the close of the year, he engaged in various enterprises, and was appointed justice of the peace by Governor Riley, the first appointment to this office in California. His energy and prudence soon gave him a competence, and he returned to the east and resumed his lecturing tours until 1860, when he became interested in the publication of a series of war maps, which bore his name. In 1863 he established the "Colton Dental Association" in New York, and similar offices in several of the larger cities of the United States. Subsequently he introduced the anaesthetic use of nitrous-oxide gas in Paris and London. He is the author of several tracts and pamphlets relating to philosophical and theological subjects.
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