Crawford Long was born in Danielsville, Georgia in 1815 and graduated from the University of Georgia. While getting his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he witnessed firsthand the excruciating pain of patients undergoing surgery, and the crude methods used to alleviate pain, from alcohol to hypnotism. At the same time, he also attended so-called “ether frolics” at college -- parties where friends would inhale nitrous oxide and seemingly felt no pain.
British chemist Sir Humphrey Davy first proposed using anesthetic gases during surgery in 1798, but Long was the first to do it, removing a tumor from a patient’s neck using sulfuric ether in 1842 in Jefferson, Georgia. He used ether in several more surgeries but didn’t publish his findings until 1849, leaving many of his colleagues skeptical of his claim.
Long’s achievement was officially recognized in 1879, a year after his death. Long County and Crawford Long Hospital are both named for the man born on November 1, 1815, Today in Georgia History.
Doctor's Day is celebrated March 30 in honor of the first day that Crawford Long used ether anesthetic in surgery.