Timeline Description: Daniel Hale Williams (1856 - 1931) was a pioneering black surgeon best known for performing the first successful open-heart surgery in 1893. He also founded the first interracial hospital in the United States and became a surgeon at the Freedmen's Hospital. With his attention to the latest research in sterilization and germ prevention, he set standards for high levels of professionalism and success in hospitals where he worked, and he championed the integration of American hospitals and nursing schools.
|January 18, 1856||Daniel Hale Williams III is born.
Daniel Hale Williams III is born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. He is the fifth of seven children born to his parents, Sarah Price Williams and Daniel H. Williams. His father inherits a barber business and works with the Equal Rights League, a black civil rights organization that operated during Reconstruction.
|1866||Williams becomes a shoemaker's apprentice.
After his father dies, Sarah Williams sends Daniel away to live with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland. There he becomes a shoemaker's apprentice, but he dislikes the work and runs away to rejoin his family, now in Illinois. After his family moves to Wisconsin, he works as a barber, hoping to follow in his father's footsteps.
|1877||Williams becomes an apprentice to a surgeon.
Fascinated by medicine, Williams becomes an apprentice to Henry Palmer, a Wisconsin surgeon and Civil War hero. This work serves as his introduction to medicine, and he decides to pursue his education rather than opening his own practice at the end of his two-year apprenticeship.
|1880||Williams enrolls in the Chicago Medical College(Spring 1880).
With the help of Dr. Henry Palmer, Williams enrolls in the Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School) in 1880. He graduates three years later with a degree as Doctor of Medicine, after gaining experience at Mercy Hospital.
|1883||Williams opens his own practice in Chicago.
After graduation, Williams opens his own practice in Chicago and teaches anatomy at Chicago Medical College. He sets high standards in medical procedures and sanitary conditions, and he uses recently discovered sterilization procedures to avoid transmitting germs. He also serves as the first African American surgeon for the City Railway Company.
|1889||Williams is appointed to the Illinois State Board of Health.
Having built a reputation as a successful surgeon utilizing the latest research in sterilization and germ prevention, Williams is appointed to the Illinois State Board of Health in 1889. However, he is not satisfied by Chicago's ongoing racism, which bars talented black surgeons and nurses from the city's hospitals and turns away black citizens from treatment.
|May 4, 1891||Williams opens America's first interracial hospital and nursing school.
Williams believes firmly that Chicago needs a hospital where both black and white doctors can study, and where black nurses can receive training. After months of work, he opens Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses on May 4, 1891. This becomes the first interracial hospital and nursing school in the United States, and in its first year it sees an 87% success rate.
|July 10, 1893||Williams performs the first successful open-heart surgery.
On July 10, 1893, Williams operates on James Cornish, who has a severe stab wound in his chest. Williams successfully sutures the sac enclosing the heart, or pericardium, and applies antiseptic before closing the wound. With this prevention against infection, he becomes the first person to successfully perform open-heart surgery in the United States. Cornish lives for fifty years after the operation.
|February 1894||Williams is appointed Chief Surgeon of the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Williams moves to Washington, D.C. in February 1894, and he is appointed Chief Surgeon of the Freedmen's Hospital. The hospital, which serves freed African Americans, is in disrepair, and Williams works to improve surgical procedures and reorganize the hospital's departments. He also makes the staff biracial, employing highly qualified black doctors and nurses.
|December 1895||Williams co-founds the National Medical Association.
In December 1895, Williams co-founds the National Medical Association to serve as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which does not permit African Americans to join. The National Medical Association serves as a professional organization for black medical practitioners, and Williams is appointed Vice President.
|February 1898||Williams marries Alice Johnson.
In 1898, Williams leaves the Freedmen's Hospital and marries Alice Johnson, a schoolteacher he met in Washington, D.C. The couple moves to Chicago, where Williams returns to his position as Chief Surgeon at Provident Hospital.
|1900||Williams serves as a visiting clinical professor at Meharry Medical College.
Starting in 1900, Williams visits Nashville, Tennessee for more than two decades, as he serves as a voluntary visiting clinical professor at Meharry Medical College. This is the second oldest medical school for African Americans in the United States, and Williams delivers speeches that optimistically point out how black hospitals are helping to decrease the mortality rate for black citizens.
|1912||Williams joins the staff of St. Luke's Hospital.
In 1912, Williams is appointed associate attending surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital on Chicago's South Side. He works here until he retires from practicing medicine.
|1913||Williams becomes a charter member of the American College of Surgeons.
In 1913, Williams becomes a charter member of the American College of Surgeons. His membership also makes him the first black member of the prestigious group.
|August 4, 1931||Williams dies.
After suffering a debilitating stroke in 1926, Williams dies on August 4, 1931 in Idlewild, Michigan. He leaves a legacy of standards for both black and white surgeons, and educational institutions honor him as a pioneering physician and advocate for African Americans in medicine. The Daniel Hale Williams Reading Club in Washington, D.C. honors his achievements.