Biographical / Historical
Crawford Williamson Long was born November 1, 1815, in Danielsville, Georgia, the son of James and Elizabeth Ware. He was a studious boy who entered Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) at fourteen and graduated in 1835, second in his class. After teaching one year he began to read medicine, first under a preceptor, later at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, and finally at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in 1839.
Following eighteen months in New York, where he gained a reputation as a skillful surgeon, he began to practice in Jefferson, a village in Jackson County, Georgia. In August 1842, Dr. Long married Caroline Swain, the niece of Governor David Lowry Swain of North Carolina.
During the early 1840's laughing gas was the subject of much discussion and a number of demonstrations of its effects on volunteers. In January, 1842 several of Long's friends induced him to let them have a nitrous oxide frolic. No nitrous oxide was available but Long offered sulphuric ether as a substitute, explaining to his friends that it was equally exhilirating and as safe as nitrous oxide. After observing that the young men who had inhaled the sulphuric ether did not experience pain, Dr. Long decided to test its ability to produce insensitivity in his practice.
On March 30, 1842, Dr. Long administered sulphuric ether to James Venable and removed a small tumor from his neck. This was the first recorded surgical procedure using inhalation anaesthesia. On June 6 he removed another tumor from Venable's neck and on July 3 amputated a boy's toe. By September Long had performed eight operations using ether as the anaesthetic. This experience with ether was not published until December, 1849 as a result of the controversy over W. T. G. Morton's claim to priority in its discovery. At that time Dr. Long described his first five operations using ether in a paper in the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal under the title "An Account of the First Use of Sulphuric Ether by Inhalation as an Anaesthetic in Surgical Operations."
In 1850 Crawford Long moved to Athens, Georgia, where he immediately acquired a large surgical practice. He died there on June 16, 1878. In 1910 an obelisk was erected to his memory in Athens and in 1926 Georgia placed his statue in Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.