Crawford Williamson Long (1815 – 1878)

“LONG, Crawford Williamson, physician, was born in Danielsville, Ga., Nov. 1, 1815, son of James and Elizabeth (Ware) Long, and grandson of Capt. Samuel Long, an officer in the American army in the Revolution, who served under Lafayette at Yorktown.  Captain Samuel, with his family, with his family and a colony of other Pennsylvanians, settled in middle Georgia about 1785.  James Long married Elizabeth Ware, of Amherst, Va.; was elected to the state senate, and was a personal and political friend of the Hon. William H. Crawford.  His son, Crawford W., was a roommate of Alexander H. Stephens at the University of Georgia, and was graduated, A.B., in 1835, and from the University of Pennsylvania, M.D., 1839.  He spent one year in hospital practice in New York city, and in 1841 settled in practice in Jefferson, Ga.

About this time itinerant lecturers on chemistry were accustomed to conclude their evening entertainments with exhibition of the effects of ‘laughing gas,’ Dr. Long suggested that sulphuric ether would produce the same effect, and its use for sport became common at social gatherings in the community, which often ended with so-called ‘ether frolics.’  His professional services in connection with the frolics in which cuts and bruises unattended with pain were discovered after the effects of the ether had passed off, led him to the discovery of the use of ether as an anaesthetic.  This was in January, 1842, and his first surgical operation with the aid of ether was performed successfully in Jackson county, March 30, 1843, two and a half years before Dr. Horace Wells, of Hartford, discovered the anaesthetic powers of nitrous oxide under similar circumstances, and four and a half years before W.T.G. Morton administered it, at the request of Dr. John C. Warren, in the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Long’s discovery was known at once not only in Jackson county, but throughout the state of Georgia.  His practice called for repeated trials of the use of ether as n anaesthetic, notably on July 3, 1842; Sept. 9, 1843, and Jan. 8, 1845; but it was not until 1846 that he published a detailed account of his discovery in the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal.

Dr. Long was married in 1842 to Caroline Swain, niece of Gov. David Swain, of North Carolina, and a cousin of Ge, Joseph Lane, of Oregon.  He removed to Athens, Ga., in 1851.

In 1854 he first took part in the famous ether controversy as carried on by Morton, Jackson, and friends of Horace Wells, by writing Senator Dawson, of Georgia, who induced Dr. Jackson to visit Dr. Long at his home in Georgia, which he did, on March 8, 1854.  Dr, Jackson claimed that in February 1842, he breathed chlorine gas, and to relieve the pain and effects he inhaled ether and discovered that he was insensible to pain.  On hearing Long’s account of his discovery, Dr. Jackson wrote from Athens to Senator Dawson in Washington, acknowledging the justice of Dr. Long’s claims.  The senator read the letter in the senate, April 15, 1854, when the sill to determine the discoverer of anaesthesia in order to reward the proper person an appropriation of $100,000, was before the senate for its final reading, and at the instance of Senator Dawson, Dr. Long’s name was inserted in the bill.  Here the matter appears to have ended so far as any action of congress affected the question of the discoverer.

In 1879 Henri L. Stuart of New York city, caused a portrait of Dr. C. W. Long to be painted by Frank B. Carpenter, and he presented it to the University of Georgia to be placed in the state capitol.  After witnessing the ceremony of presentation, Mr. Stuart proceeded to Dr. Long’s late home at Athens, Ga., intending to visit his grave, Dr. Long having died at Athens the year before.  Arriving late at night, he was stricken with paralysis before morning, and after a brief illness died.  His remains were deposited in a grave next to that of the benefactor he had sought to honor.”

Source:  The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, by Rossiter Johnson, John Howard Brown, Vol.7, The Biographical Society, Boston, 1904

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