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This Day in Georgia History

November 01, 1815

Crawford Long Born

To view a book on Crawford Long, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Physician Crawford W. Long was born in Danielsville, Georgia. Long received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1839. After a brief stint working in New York hospitals, Long returned to his home state to take over a rural practice in Jefferson, Georgia. While in college, Long had some experience with “ether frolics” and thought there was some possibility of the development of an anesthetic to lessen or remove the extreme pain surgery patients of his time had to endure. He did not have access to the nitrous oxide which had been used in his college experiences, so he began experimenting with sulfuric ether. Careful observation showed him that patients suffered no pain when under the effects of this gas, even when severely cut or bruised. Long took the inevitable next step on March 30, 1842. His patient, James M. Venable, was rendered unconscious by sulfuric ether, then had a cyst removed. When Venable regained consciousness he felt no pain at all! Over the course of the next four years Long performed other surgeries using sulfuric ether, but he had not officially recorded his findings. Thus, as word of his success spread, others claimed to have been the first to successfully use the gas in surgery. It would not be until a year before his death that he was clearly proclaimed to be the true pioneer of surgical anesthesia. Meanwhile Long had moved to Athens, Georgia in 1850 where he quietly continued to practice, modestly avoiding the limelight that could have been his due. He died in Athens on June 19, 1878. An interesting footnote to Long’s story: his fee for the anesthesia and surgery he performed on James Venable - two dollars! In 1920, the General Assembly proposed and voters ratified a constitutional amendment to create a new county named in honor of Crawford Long. Also, in 1926, Georgia placed a marble statue of Long in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. In 1937, the marble statue of Long (shown above) was placed on the grounds of the old Madison County courthouse in Danielsville, Georgia. On April 8, 1940, the U.S. Post Office issued a commemorative stamp honoring Long.