We know of many awe-inspiring scientists that lived their lives in obscurity. Doctor Daniel Hale Williams lived in relative obscurity but paved the way for many young, aspiring medical students.
Daniel Hale Williams was a black surgeon who was primarily active during the Reconstruction Era. He was credited with being the first to perform open heart surgery (1). He’s documented as having had the first successful reparation of the pericardium, the membrane that surrounds the heart (5).
This is an important feat, because this is the first instance in which a successful chest cavity had been performed. Before this, it had not been uncommon for procedure to have gone sour due to infection. But due to Williams’ knowledge of Louis Pasteur and John Lister’s recent discoveries, he sterilized his tools and sanitized the wound before suturing the pericardium and closing the chest cavity.
His patient, James Cornish, survived for over 20 years after having been stabbed in the chest, thanks to Dr. Williams. After that, he continued his medical legacy, going onto revitalize the Freedman’s Hospital in Maryland. In his lifetime, he established the first integrated practice called Provident Hospital in Chicago, co-founded the National Medical Association, and was a volunteer clinical professor at Meharry Medical College (2,3,4,6).
His many accolades make him a shining gem in a pile of jewels, and it’s hard to think that many have not heard of him before today. Doctor Daniel Hale Williams made a wealth of contributions to the field of medicine and civil rights, and it’s almost certain that without him, it would be a long time before anyone could have matched his foresight (2).