First U.S. appendectomy: Jan. 4, 1885

Back in the 1880s, when a person developed appendicitis, an infection of the small wormlike appendage of the colon, it usually was a death sentence because there was no accepted treatment. But when a gravely ill 22-year-old named Mary Gartside was brought to Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Iowa with a sharp pain in her gut, a physician there, Dr. William Grant, decided to try an untested surgery rather than allow the young woman to die .After giving her anesthesia, he cut into her side and removed the infected appendix.  Gartside recovered fully from the surgery.

While this was the first recorded appendectomy in the United States, the surgery reportedly had been performed elsewhere a few years earlier. A Canadian doctor, Abraham Groves, performed the first successful appendectomy in North America on May 10, 1883, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. And British surgeon Robert Lawson Tait, is said to have performed the first recorded appendectomy, in 1880.