This Wednesday, July 9, marks the 121st anniversary of the first open-heart surgery.
A man with a knife in his chest was brought to Dr. Daniel Hale Williams at Provident Hospital in Chicago. Using no anesthesia, Dr. Williams removed the knife and repaired the heart of the patient, who lived for years after the procedure.
Dr. Williams wasn’t just a pioneer in the medical field; he fought for the rights of African Americans in the fields of education and medicine. Objecting to the practice of segregated hospitals, he opened Provident Hospital himself after gathering funding from the community of his racially-mixed Chicago neighborhood.
Dr. Williams later became the only African-American doctor among the hundred charter members of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.
A life-saving procedure performed by a civil rights leader? Astoundingly cool.