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Robert Oliver

Born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Williams possessed a mixed racial ancestry, with Caucasian, Native American, and African-American antecedents on both sides of his family. Williams considered himself a “Negro,” and it was as a Negro that he moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, where at the age of seventeen he worked as a barber while attending a local academy and later reading law at night. Deciding against a career in law, he apprenticed with a local physician and then attended Chicago Medical College.

Williams evinced great skill as a surgeon and clinician. His most noteworthy contribution to medical practice came in 1893, when he performed the first successful open-heart surgery. He helped found both the American College of Surgeons and the National Medical Association (1895 the black equivalent of the the all white American Medical Association He also was the prime mover behind the Provident Hospital and Training School in ...


The son of a barber, Daniel Hale Williams lived on his own after the age of twelve. As a youth, he worked as a shoemaker, a roustabout on a lake steamer, and a barber. Moving with his sister to Wisconsin he met Henry Palmer, a prominent physician, the surgeon general of Wisconsin for ten years. Williams was apprenticed by Palmer, who became his mentor and helped pay his tuition at the Chicago Medical School.

Graduating with an M.D. in 1883, Williams opened a medical practice on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. An adept doctor, he served as an attending physician at the Protestant Orphan Asylum and as a surgeon at the South Side Dispensary. Williams also worked as a clinical instructor at the Chicago Medical College and as a physician with the City Railway Company. He was appointed in 1889 to the Illinois Board of ...


Robert C. Hayden

Louis Tompkins Wright was born in La Grange, Georgia, the son of Ceah Ketcham Wright, a physician and clergyman, and Lula Tompkins. After his father's death in 1895, his mother married William Fletcher Penn, a physician who was the first African American to graduate from Yale University Medical School. Raised and educated in Atlanta, Wright received his elementary, secondary, and college education at Clark University in Atlanta, graduating in 1911 as valedictorian of his class. His stepfather was one of the guiding influences that led to his choice of medicine as a career.

Wright graduated from Harvard Medical School, cum laude and fourth in his class, in 1915 While in medical school he exhibited his willingness to take a strong stand against racial injustice when he successfully opposed a hospital policy that would have barred him but not his white classmates from the practicum ...