Doctor George Washington Crile

George Washington Crile, a famous physician and surgeon, made his home in Cleveland Heights for many years. He was born in a farm in 1864 near the little village of Chili, Ohio. He graduated from high school and began to teach. In the town where he taught he met a doctor, through whose influence young Crile became interested in medicine. Doctors at that time made house calls in horse-drawn buggies. Crile often went with the doctor on his calls and listened to him discuss his cases. Plans for a career in medicine began to take shape in young Crile’s mind. He worked his way though a small medical school in Cleveland, Ohio. Today this college is the Case Western Reserve Medical School. He graduated and became a doctor in 1887.

One day when Doctor Crile was working in the hospital a friend was brought in. He has been run over by a street car and both legs had been cut off. He was dying of shock. Nothing the doctors did helped. Doctor Crile made up his mind to find a way to cure patients suffering from shock. Actually, since 1492 doctors had been searching for a method to control this condition with no success. It was thought that giving blood to the patient might be the answer but no one succeeded in giving a blood transfusion.

George Crile lived in this massive home (built and originally occupied by Patrick Calhoun) on the site of what is now the Cedar Hill Baptist Church.

In 1906 Doctor Crile succeeded in giving what is said to be the first successful blood transfusion. He had done his research with animals and was ready to try his method on a human being. A young man in the hospital was dying and Doctor Crile thought a transfusion would save him. The sick man’s brother agreed to give the blood. The parents saw that it was their last chance to save their son, so they agreed to let Doctor Crile try. The transfusion was successful. The young man recovered. It would be impossible to say how many lives have been saved by Dr. Crile’s discovery. Accident cases, operated cases, and thousands of wounded soldiers owe their lives to transfusions.

Doctor Crile organized a unit of doctors and nurses who went to France with the famous Rainbow Division in World War I. He is well known in his research in the treatment of goiter. The Cleveland Clinic, which he helped found, became a Mecca for thyroid patients from all over the world. Doctor Crile established a fund known as the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Medical research which had been such an important part of his life was to be carried forward with this foundation money. He died on November 25, 1958. There is probably no family in Cleveland Heights which has not benefited in some way from the work of this famous man.