This Day in Black History: Jan. 18, 1858

Daniel Hale Williiams, who performed first successful open heart surgery is born.

Posted: 01/18/2013 08:00 AM EST

(Photo: Courtesy National Library of Medicine)

Daniel Hale Williams made history as the first person to perform a successful open-heart surgery. He was born on Jan. 18, 1858 in Hollidaysburg, Pennyslvania. At a young age he expressed interest in medicine and completed an apprenticeship with Dr. Henry Palmer, an accomplished surgeon. He finished his medical training at Chicago Medical College.

As a Black doctor, Williams made it his mission to provide opportunities for other African-Americans, who were barred from working at hospitals because of racism.  In 1891, he founded the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the first medical facility to hire an interracial staff.

His greatest accomplishment came in 1893, when he operated the first open heart surgery on James Cornish. Cornish lived for many years after. The following year, Williams took post as the chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Five years after suffering from a stroke, Williams died on Aug. 4, 1931 in Idlewild, Michigan.


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