Daniel Hale Williams

Quick Look At Williams

Daniel Hale Williams was known for being the first American to perform a successful open-heart surgery, and the first African American to do so. He also founded the first hospital with an interracial staff.

Early Life

Daniel Hale Williams III was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania on January 18, 1856. After his father died in 1866, Williams moved to Baltimore, Maryland with his extended family. For a short time here, he worked as a shoemaker's apprentice, until he decided that it wasn't for him. He moved to Illinois with his immediate family and began taking up cutting hair. After cutting hair for a while, Williams set on getting his education and worked as an apprentice to a successful surgeon, Dr. Henry Palmer. He then completed his medical training at Chicago Medical College in 1883.


After earning his degree, Williams worked as a physician for the Protestant Orphan Asylum and worked as a surgeon for the South Side Dispensary. While working here, he decided that he needed to do something about discrimination in the medical field. In May of 1891, Williams opened his own hospital called Provident. His hospital helped Black Americans get the medical care they needed. He also established a nurses' school within his hospital. This was the first-ever school for African American nurses. Finally, Williams hired medical professionals of all ethnic backgrounds, making it the first hospital to have an interracial staff. In 1983, Williams and his hospital performed one of the first open-heart surgeries. The patient, James Cornish had severe stab wounds to his chest. After the completion of the surgery, the patient lived at least 20 more years, making it the first successful open-heart surgery. In 1894, Williams was appointed as a surgeon in chief at Freedman's Hospital, where he established another medical school for Black nurses. From 1889 to 1891, he served on the Illinois State Board of Health. In 1913, Williams became the only African American charter member of the American College of Surgeons. He died on August 4, 1931, 5 years after a stroke.

Daniel Hale Williams created opportunities and provided health care for so many African Americans who needed it after facing discrimination. His integrated-staff hospital brought hope to America. Daniel Hale Williams truly made a difference.