Samuel Gordon Dabney was born near Charlottesville, VA,and was educated at the University of Virginia, 1878-1880 followed by medical training there in 1880-1882. He then attended the Hospital College of Medicine in 1882-1883. Dabney did post-graduate work in Switzerland and Germany, then returned to Louisville to practice medicine in 1886. He taught at the University of Louisville Medical Department as professor of otolaryngology and clinical professor of ophthalmology. He married Louise Allen of Louisville in 1887.