Writer Julie Fenster. She written a new book about the coincidence and circumstance that led to the first use of ether, making surgery painless for the first time. The breakthru day — known as Ether Day — was Oct. 16, 1846. One of the men behind it was a Boston dentist, William Morton, who was also a conman and an opportunist. Fenster tells the story in her new book, Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made it (HarperCollins). Fenster is a columnist for American Heritage and a contributor to the New York Times.