This Day in Tech History

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Fixing a Broken Heart


July 9, 1893:  Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Performs First Successful Open Heart Susrgery . . . Without Anesthesia

Williams was the first to perform successful Open Heart surgery.  Earlier surgeries on the pericardium (which resulted in the death of the patient) was attempted by Francisco Romero in 1801, Dominique Jean Larrey prior to 1850, and by Henry Dalton in 1891.


In 1893, Williams made history when he operated on James Cornish, a man with a severe stab wound to his chest who was brought to Provident.  Without the benefits of penicillin, a blood transfusion or modern surgical procedures, Williams successfully sutured Cornish’s pericardium (the membranous sac enclosing the heart), becoming the first person to perform open-heart surgery.  About fifty-five days later, James Cornish had successfully recovered from the surgery.  Cornish lived for many years after the operation.

James Cornish

James Cornish


Daniel Hale Williams (January 18, 1858– August 4, 1931) was an American surgeon.  He was the first African-American cardiologist, and performed one of the first successful pericardium surgeries in the United States.  He also founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States.

Provident Hospital

Provident Hospital

At the time that he graduated from medical school, black doctors were not allowed to work in Chicago hospitals.  As a result, in 1891, Williams started the Provident Hospital (Chicago) and training school for nurses in Chicago, Illinois.  This was established mostly for African-American citizens.

Due to the discrimination of the day, African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. Firmly believing this needed to change, in May 1891, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. The facility, where Williams worked as a surgeon, was publicly championed by famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams

Dr.  Williams

Dr. Williams

He lived with his father who was a “free negro” barber, his mother, his one brother and five sisters and was the fifth child of the family.  His family eventually moved to Annapolis, Maryland. Shortly after when Daniel was nine, his father died.  Williams graduated from Chicago Medical College in 1883.

Williams was married in 1898 to Alice Johnson, daughter of sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel and a maid of mixed ancestry.  Williams died of a stroke in Idlewild, Michigan on August 4, 1931.  His wife, Alice Johnson, died in 1924.

Moses Jacob Ezekiel Sculpture 1904 Cast can’t hide from fate

Hearing the Voice

Hearing the Voice


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One thought on “Fixing a Broken Heart

  1. Pingback: Annapolis Maryland <> Fixing a Bleeding Heart

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