Hartford’s monument to Dr. Horace Wells, the inventor of anesthesia, is the best known of T.H. Bartlett’s sculptural works. Bartlett created a commanding presence of this fated investigator into the effects of chemicals upon the human nervous system. The scientist, who tested his experimental drugs on himself, is seen wrapped in a cloak and carrying a walking stick. He stands, above the scattered notebooks recording his experiments, as if he has just returned to his laboratory, strengthened in his resolve and full of conviction that his discovery will one day benefit all mankind.
Bartlett’s generalized treatment of forms as large sculptural masses combined with the descriptiveness of seemingly incidental details created a strongly narrative quality in the tradition of the great neoclassical sculptors like Jean-Antoine Houdon. This work, dedicated in 1865, is the earliest of the pieces of public sculpture in Hartford still in its original location. It was exhibited in Paris before it was installed permanently in Hartford. The inscription on the base reads: “Horace Wells, The Discoverer of Anesthesia, 1844.”
- Horace Wells : Published through the Bushnell Park Foundation