Crawford Williamson Long
1815 - 1878
Crawford Williamson Long was born on November 1, 1815 in Danielsville, Georgia. His family was prominent in Georgia's Madison County. Crawford, a brother, and two sisters were brought up in the comfortable surroundings of a refined Southern household. Crawford Long went through local schools, and at the age of 14 he was admitted to Georgia's Franklin College, which later became the University of Georgia. He graduated from Franklin in 1835, and went on to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 1839 he was awarded his medical degree from the university. Long then moved to New York City, where he began to practice medicine in New York hospitals. He stayed in New York for less than two years and then returned to his native Georgia with skills as a physician and surgeon.
Crawford Long is now widely credited with being the first medical professional to use anesthesia for surgical procedures, although there were others who claimed the breakthrough as their own. Long's discovery of anesthesia was partially a product of his times. In certain circles in the early 1800's, fashionable young people were enlivening their parties and social events with substances such as nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas. Long noticed that people who were under the influence of the gas seemed to be oblivious to physical pain. This observation led to his experimentation with a similar substance, sulfuric ether. On March 30, 1842 Long performed surgery to remove a tumor from a patient after having the patient inhale the fumes from an ether-soaked cloth. The patient's tumor was removed, and the patient reported that he had felt absolutely no pain. Although Long continued to use ether as an anesthetic in future surgical procedures, he did not immediately publish his findings. Other medical professionals also began to use anesthesia in their work, and some claimed to be the discoverers of the procedure. But Crawford Long is now widely recognized as the pioneer of the use of anesthesia in the medical profession.
Long continued to practice medicine and to use anesthesia throughout his medical career. A dedicated physician and surgeon, he married and kept a small medical office in Georgia for his entire life. Crawford Williamson Long worked up until the end of his days, and he died attending to a patient on June 16, 1878.