BlackFacts Details

Williams, Daniel Hale (1856-1931)

Daniel Hale Williams III was a pioneeringsurgeon best known for performing in 1893 one of the world’s first successfulopen heart surgeries.  Williams was born on January18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania toSarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II .  Following the death of his father, Williamslived with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland, and with family in Illinois, from1866 to 1878 where he was a shoemaker’s apprentice and barber until he decidedto pursue his education.  In 1878, Williams’sinterest in medicine began when he worked in the office of Henry Palmer, a Wisconsinsurgeon.  In 1880 he enrolled in the ChicagoMedical College, receiving a Doctor of Medicine degree three years later .

Immediately after graduation Williams opened his own practice in Chicago andtaught anatomy at Chicago Medical College.  He became a trailblazer, setting highstandards in medical procedures and sanitary conditions, including adopting recently-discoveredsterilization procedures in regard to germ transmission andprevention .  He alsoavoided the then-common practice of black doctors being barred from staffprivileges in white hospitals by starting his own hospital.  In 1891 Williams co-founded Provident Hospitaland Training School Association in a three-story building on Chicago’sSouth Side.  At a time when only 909black physicians served 7.5 million African Americans, Provident was the firstblack-controlled hospital in the nation. Yet Provident was also the firstmedical facility to have an interracial staff and the first trainingfacility for African American nurses in the US.  During Williams’s tenure as physician-owner(1891-1912), Provident hospital grew, largely due to its extremely high successrate in patient recovery: 87 percent.

In 1893, Williams daringly performed open heart surgery on a young black man , James Cornish, who hadreceived severe stab wounds in his chest .   Despitehaving a limited array of surgical equipment and medicine, Williamsopened Cornish’s chest cavity and operated on his heart