Dr. Hartford Ransom Burwell, 93, a surgeon here for many years, died of cancer Tuesday at the Washington home of his daughter, Cordella B. Smith.

He was born in Raleigh, N.C., attended Hampton Institute and graduated from the Howard University School of Medicine in 1912. He had practiced medicine here until a year ago.

Dr. Burwell interned at the old Freedmen's Hospital, now Howard University Hospital. He was on the staff of Freedmen's from 1915 to 1948, serving as an instructor in gynecology and clinical surgery and as an associate clinical professor of surgery.

In 1938, he opened a 12-bed facility, the Burwell Hospital, adjacent to his home on Sherman Avenue NW. He operated it for 14 years with the assistance of his wife, Annie Murdock Burwell, as dietician, and his daughter, Cordella Smith, as registered nurse. Mrs. Burwell died in 1969.

Dr. Burwell was a member of the American Board of Surgery and the American Society of Abdominal Surgery, and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.