Minnie Wright Blogg.

Sir William Osler, bart. Brief tributes to his personality, influence and public service online

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schools and upon professional thought and conduct would
require an inquiry into the methods of medical teaching in
vogue more than a quarter of a century ago, and into the social
and professional relations of the physicians of the city and
state toward each other.

At about the time of Osier's arrival in Baltimore to assume
the duties of physician-in-chief to The Johns Hopkins Hos-
pital there was a movement on foot to improve and enlarge
the medical curriculum. The University of Maryland in 1889
announced that after 1891 a compulsory three-year course
would be required in the medical department with a prelimi-
nary examination in English.

In March, 1890, a call was issued by the medical staff of
The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the medical faculties of The
University of Maryland, The College of Physicians and
Surgeons, The Baltimore Medical College, The Baltimore
University and The Woman's Medical College for the organiza-
tion of a medical college association -with a view to the co-
operation of all medical teaching bodies in bringing about a
three-year graded course, written and oral examinations, a
preliminary examination in English and laboratory instruc-
tion in chemistry, histology and pathology.

At the meeting of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty in

1889 the annual address was given by Dr. Osier, who took for

his theme '' The License to Practice," and undoubtedly this

address gave an impetus to a movement, already receiving

support, for higher medical education and a better qualified

student body.


84 Sir William Osler, Bart.

My own connection with medical teaching in Baltimore did
not begin until eight years subsequent to this date, but I
realized before that period, and have had occasion to know
since, the great interest which Osier took in promoting reforms
in medical teaching not only here, but in the country at large,
the great and lasting influence of his advice, and above all, his
example as a teacher.

Trained as he had been as a laboratory man, realizing to the
fullest extent the results which flowed from his laboratory
studies and their bearing upon the practical work of the
hospital ward and the consulting room, as well as in the lecture
hall, he urged the establishment of laboratories.

Thoroughly equipped lahoratories, in charge of men thoroughly
equipped as teachers and investigators, is the most pressing want
to-day in the medical schools of this country.

The hospital was, from his point of view, a college — a place
of teaching, the most essential part of the machinery of a
medical school.

The systematic use of the resources of the hospital which he
inaugurated and which he urged upon other communities and
described in detail in his address before the New York
Academy of Medicine in 1903 found in the minds of the more
progressive teachers of the Baltimore schools a ready accept-

For those working in my own special field, it is gratifying
to believe that it was a few words spoken in his farewell address
at the university, February 22, 1905, which gave an impetus
that resulted in the establishment of a psychiatric clinic at the

From his address at the dedication of the Wistar Institute
of Anatomy and Biology of the University of Pennsylvania,,
1894, I take the following:

What, after all, is education but a subtle, slowly effected change,
due to the action upon us of the externals; of the written record
of great minds of all ages, of the beautiful and harmonious sur-
roundings of nature and art, and of the lives good or 111 of our
fellows — these alone educate us, these alone mould the developing

Relation- to Other Medical Schools 85

The whole career of Osier in Baltimore, his life here as a
teacher, hospital physician, consultant and citizen was devoted
to the better teaching of medicine, to better ideals in educa-
tion ; and from his life, from his example, proceeded influences
which not only moulded developing minds, but stimulated all
who had a real ambition, to teach and, in teaching, to learn
also, and develop.

To emphasize sufficiently his influence upon medical educa-
tion is most difficult. One of his constant pleas for other
schools was for larger clinical advantages, and better use of
those already provided. In 1897 in his address on Internal
Medicine as a Vocation, before the ISTew York Academy of
Medicine, he says:

To-day the serious problem confronts the professors in many of
our schools — how to teach practical medicine to large classes;
how to give them protracted and systematic ward instruction.
I know of no teacher in the country who controls enough clinical
material for the instruction of classes, say of 200 men, during the
third and fourth year.

Never a controversialist, none the less did he bear a large
share in the controversies of 30 or more years ago, which
preceded and eventually brought about the changes in the
methods of medical education which have taken place since
that time. His influence was exerted not in argument or
controversy, but in the force of example, by the way in which
he lived his ideals and induced others to share them with him.

He studied " to be quiet " and do his " own business,^^ " to
walk honestly toward them that are without" and one of his
chief pleasures was " to work among [us] as a friend sharing
actively in [our] manifold labors."

Some years ago I had occasion to apply to him a quota-
tion from the presidential address of the late Dr. Charles M.
Ellis before the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty in 1898.
These words seem to me particularly appropriate to Dr. Osier :

Many [doctors] by reason of natural endowments and acquired
fitness elevate their lives to a professional plane on which it is
possible for an intellectual life to develop; and on which it does
develop, not only to individual suflaciency, but to public usefulness

86 Sir William Osler, Baet.

and a public influence, that on the one hand meets and supplies
public emergencies and, on the other, largely directs and controls
public thought and movement.

These words from what I know of the intimate and friendly
relations between the two men may well have been brought
to the mind of Dr. Ellis by his knowledge not only of the
intellectual life of Dr. Osier, but by his appreciation of the
controlling influence of his mind upon public thought and
movement, particularly in professional circles.

Very early in his residence in Baltimore, notwithstanding
that he " studied to be quiet/^ he became a by no means unim-
portant factor in the social life of Baltimore physicians.

He so regulated his work that he always had a certain
amount of time to give to his friends in social converse, or in
conference over the more serious things of their everyday lives
and work.

He appreciated the difficulties and perplexities which sur-
rounded the lives of many of his professional brethren and
many a burden has been made lighter, many dark hours bright-
ened, by his wise and thoughtful advice and his cheering

More than one doctor laboring amid discouragement and
the indifference of open opposition of his fellow-citizens, whose
lives he was manfully trying to make more tolerable, whose
surroundings he was endeavoring to make more healthful, has
found to his surprise that Osier had learned of what he sup-
posed was unknown beyond the bounds of his own community,
and has received from him words of cheer and commendation,
which were a powerful incentive to renewed effort, just when
all the uses of the world appeared to him " weary, stale, flat
and unprofitable."

His farewell address " Unity, Peace and Concord " is an
eloquent recital of his consuming eagerness to be " a servant "
to his brethren to do all in his " power to help them.'^

He strove always to live in unity, peace and concord with
his fellows. He strove with none — not that none were worth
the strife, but because of a deep conviction of the hatefulness

Relation to Other Medical Schools 87

of strife. Those worth the strife he won by other and gentler
means, and bound them to him by the everlasting chains of

In 1881 there was formed in Baltimore the Baltimore
Monthly Medical Eeunion. It met at the home of members in
turn and around the dinner table and at the fireside many
friendships were made and consolidated. Very soon after
coming to Baltimore, Dlr. Osier became a member of the
Reunion and always when he was present at the monthly
gatherings, as with The McGregor, where Osier sat was " the
head of the table,^' the center of conversation, the focus of wit
and wisdom.

As in the past, so in the future in all that makes for truth
and righteousness, in all that holds forth high ideals, in all
that encourages culture and all the virtues of the Christian
gentleman and the ideal physician the name of Osier will be
one to conjure with. From time to time, as on the present
occasion, his friends for many years, let us hope, will send
him greetings across the sea. He has given us the master word
and with that in our hearts all things are possible. Have we
not seen it exemplified in his life and character ?

88 SiE William Oslee, Baet.


William tlie Fowler, Guillaume I'Oiseleur!
I love to call him thus and when I scan
The counterfeit presentment of the man,
I feel his net, I hear his arrows whir.
Make at the homely surname no demur,
Nor on a nomination lay a ban
With which a line of sovran lords began,
Henry the Fowler was first Emperor.

Asclepius was Apollo's chosen son.

But to that son he never lent his bow,

Nor did Hephaestus teach to forge his net;

Both secrets hath Imperial Osier won.

His winged words straight to their quarry go.

All hearts are holden by his meshes yet.

Basil L. Gildersleeve

Painted by Seyninur Tliomas, 190S

Sir Willia:\e Oslek, Bart.


By Hiram Woods

" Influence in Building Up the Medical and Chirurgical
Faculty '^ is a theme one might approach from numerous
paths. So great was Dr. Osier's influence, in so many direc-
tions did it work, so broad was his conception of the possi-
bilities for good in the organization, so keen his appreciation
of the obstacles to progress, some traditional, some personal,
that the many-sided subject is bound to appeal to his friends
in different ways. Adequate organization of the library ; reve-
lation to the younger man of what the library even in those
days afforded ; provision for the purchase of new books — these
are themes which have been selected for special review and
will be presented by others. I shall try to give some idea of
his work from another standpoint — that of personal influence.
Yet, with the selection of this special topic, I am aware that
I shall speak from my own personal impressions and memory
and may fail utterly to express the feelings of another just as
indebted to Dr. Osier as am I.

I have asked myself. What were Dr. Osler^s basic thoughts
and principle in his work for, and devotion to, the State
Medical Society? He held the most influential position
medicine in Baltimore could give ; he had at command greater
powers than any one medical man had ever possessed in the
city ; his teaching and organization duties in the new medical
school were exacting enough to take all his time, and yet he
went to work on the state society in a way which soon gathered
recruits happy to work under — not his direction — but his
mind and heart. What led him to do it ? I think he felt that
the biggest medical foundation Baltimore had ever had ought
to benefit the existing profession. He thought there should
be a high valuation of the profession itself ; realization of the


90 Sir William Oslee, Bart.

obligation of self -improvement ; a breaking-down of the
" middle wall of partition " between those, who, by a connec-
tion with the new school, seemed to possess an advantage, more
or less adventitious, and those who found, or thought they did,
a definite obstacle to practice in the new Foundation. He felt
the meaning of " Unity .'^ He told us of this — at least in
words — only on the eve of his departure. And yet he had told
us about it previously in a better way. Go over the papers he
brought to the faculty meetings and the smaller gatherings of
the local society and you will, if I mistake not, see that he
presented the problems of disease, cause, prevention and cure,
as the same for the hard-worked country doctor, with little
time to read, and the man with hospital and laboratory
advantages, plus trained nurses and competent assistants. But
here the roads parted, in a sense. The practitioner brought
his experiences and difficulties. Modern methods of investi-
gation were not at his command. Dr. Osier felt that the man
with greater advantages should, in the first place, qualify him-
self to understand the point of view of his less fortunately
placed colleague, and then, from his greater advantages, make
up the deficiency.

Sometimes a chance thing makes a life-long impression, and
such an occurrence has come back to me time and again. At a
society meeting typhoid fever was the topic. I believe I am
quoting accurately : " Typhoid fever, the monster that de-
stroys the best of our sons and claims the fairest of our
daughters ; are we to let it continue or stop it ? " And then
followed a clear, scientific and yet almost a domestic demon-
stration of preventive measures which could be taken home
and taught to those who did not know, but who, if they knew,
might save their own and others' lives. This, I believe, was
Dr. Osier's motive force : aim to realize the other man's point
of views and his needs, and to reach these needs if he could.
But if such was the self-imposed task, success could come from
no wiser-than-thou attitude. There had to be a comradeship ;
not the assumed, patronizing variety, but the sort that cements
the minds and hearts of men earnest after the same thing —

Medical axd Chirurgical Faculty 91

knowledge. How many of ns have met him browsing around
in the library, and soon found ourselves just talking? Yet
from that talk we afterwards found we had gleaned a great
deal. It was from one such talk that I took away definite
impressions about the evils of narrow specialism. Again, after
we got to know him better, we would sometimes find him in
deep conversation with a beginner in medicine, or a man we
hardly knew, and we shied oif. It was perfectly clear what he
was doing. But the comradeship was the real thing; there
was nothing professorial about it. This comradeship extended
beyond the confines of men who were active students for their
own good or those who needed prodding. It went after and
reached those who had something to give, and who did not
know how to give it; maybe they did not know they had it.
There are matters of importance to the faculty and profession,
bearing others^ names, which would never have come into being
without William Osier's realization of their importance and
pointing out the way to achievement. I cannot speak more
definitely; but men familiar with the faculty's history will
know. This comradeship went farther. It reached those who
for one reason or another had met with little or no success.
It made them feel that in spite of what might be termed
failure, honesty of purpose gave standing to a man in medicine
and brought him into unity with his brothers upon whom
fortune had smiled more kindly.

Work for the library, teaching its value by precept and
example, demonstrating the unity of the medical profession
and the spirit of comradeship soon won the esteem, confidence
and affection of men throughout our state. This feeling was,
possibly, best expressed in a telegram sent to Dr. Osier's
mother in April, 1905, when he was about to leave Baltimore.
The telegram was sent by vote of the faculty at its annual
meeting and signed by the president, Samuel T. Earle. It
reads :

The greetings of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Mary-
land to Mrs. Osier, asking her to share their sentiments in taking
leave of William Osier, congratulating Mrs. Osier first on the

92 Sir William Osler, Bart.

distinguished career of her son, but most on the innate qualities
which have endeared him to his associates in Maryland.

A few days later the following reply was received :
Mrs. Osier, who is unable from her great age to write, asked
me to express her heartfelt thanks to you for the very kind tele-
gram of greeting sent through you from the Medical and Chi-
rurgical Faculty of Maryland, and to say that the receipt of the
message gave her the greatest pleasure, more especially in the
expression of affection and appreciation called forth by the
personal qualities of her son, since these are, in her eyes, more
precious than all his honors.

She knows that it must be hard for him to sever his connection
with such kind confreres, and she is sure that the friendships he
has made during his residence in the States will be among his
most cherished memories. I am, sir, yours sincerely,

Jeannette Oslee.

One who had thrown his heart and soul into an enterprise
would be keenly disappointed if his work fell through in later
years. There seems no danger of this while there survive the
men who came under Dr. Osier's leadership. The funds
obtained through his influence^ and others, which have come
sincC;, because of the spirit he put into the organization, are
keeping the faculty up to date. But these material things,
important as they are, would fail in their purpose, unless
something else lived and permeated the faculty's life. I
mean the mental attitude which I have tried to present. It is
interesting to go over a book in a public library even if one
owns a copy himself. The latter he feels free to mark, but it
demands a certain amount of bad taste to mark passages in a
book which does not belong to you. However, this bad taste
does exist here and there and sometimes it may not be without
its advantages. It shows the other fellow's thought. Eecently
I picked up ^' Aequanimitas " at the library and opened by
chance at the delightful essay " Teacher and Student." That
a library-worn book like this should open right there is not
without significance. It means that there are youngsters
coming on now who are getting from the printed page some
of the things others got from personal intercourse. This
passage is marked with a heavy lead pencil :

Medical and Chirurgical Faculty 93

The measure of value of a nation to the world is neither the
bushel nor the barrel, but mind; — Wheat and pork, though useful
and necessary, are but dross in comparison with those intellectual
products which alone are imperishable.

In " Unity, Peace and Concord," written in 1905, 13 years
after the essay to which allusion has been made, Dr. Osier
speaks of " the petition in the Litany in which we pray that
to the nations may be given unity, peace and concord/^ Then
follows this, which I do not attempt to summarize :

Century after century from the altars of Christendom this
most beautiful of all prayers has arisen from lips of men and
women, from the loyal souls who have refused to recognize its
hopelessness, with the war-drums ever sounding in their ears.
The desire for unity, the wish for peace, the longing for concord,
deeply implanted in the human heart, have stirred the most
powerful emotions of the race, and have been responsible for
some of its noblest actions. It is but a sentiment, you may say,
but is not the world ruled by feeling and by passion? .... As
with the nations at large, so with the nation in particular; as
with people, so with individuals, and as with our profession, so
with its members, this fine old prayer for unity, peace and con-
cord, if in our hearts as well as on our lips, may help us to
realize its aspirations.

Now, 14 years later, with the world still ^^ refusing" to
recognize its '^ hopelessness " and struggling toward the reali-
zation of permanent unity, peace and concord, these words
seem almost prophetic. From the " nations at large " through
successive steps, this great principle of unity, peace and
concord reaches the medical profession and ^' individual "
doctor. His comprehension and use of it will depend on his
relative valuation of the " barrel and bushel " and " mind."
Dr. Osier's method of upbuilding the faculty differed from
others' in that he aimed to increase the individual's receptivity
for what the faculty had to offer. So long as the faculty sees
its responsibility to offer only the best; so long as its members
appreciate the nature of what is offered and remember that

94 Sir William Osler, Bart.

profit is a question of their own hearts and minds, there will
be no danger of deterioration ; but both are necessary. While
we are congratulating Dr. Osier and gratefully acknowledging
our debt to him, let us not forget what his example taught ;
for it is only thus that we can keep what he had so large a
share in giving us.

By J. A. Chatard

Of all the varied activities and interests that occupied Sir
William Osier, while in Baltimore, possibly none appealed to
him personally, and to the little group of supporters that he
gathered about him in the early days of 1896, more than the
idea of getting together a few of the men of the profession at
periodic times for the discussion of old books on medical sub-
jects and the presentation of papers on the historical side of
medicine. At the same time the members, by their interest
in the work and by the voluntary subscriptions offered, helped
much in the improvement of the library of the Medical and
Chirurgical Faculty by the purchase of new books and journals.

In these early 90's the faculty was in a quiescent mood with
few regular meetings at which, for the most part, only routine
business was transacted. Eor lack of funds the library was
much neglected and the book and journal files were far from
complete. This Dr. Osier saw and at once put his great
store of knowledge and earnestness, at the disposal of the
members of the faculty, with the result that the Book and
Journal Club was soon in a flourishing condition.

Those of us who went to the early meetings can still remem-
ber the enthusiasm of Dr. Osier in his presentation of rare old
historical medical subjects or in the enlightening discussion
that he gave following someone else's paper. x\fter some
time he would then show some of the fine old books illustrating
the talk, these books not infrequently coming from his own
medical library.

But for one man's enthusiasm and zeal we might have
missed so many interesting talks on the " Hippocratic Writ-
ings," the " Plague of 1630 in Milan," " Harvey as an Embry-
ologist," " Some Diseases Bearing the Names of Saints,"
" The Resurrectionists of London and Edinburgh," " The


96 Sir William Osler, Bart.

Books of Yesalius/^ "Assyrian Medicine/' and last but not
least;, our old friend Sir Thomas Browne. These and so many
other historical subjects he was instrumental in bringing be-
fore us^ leading us on to browse among the old masters and
find there the very things we may be looking for to-day.

During his presidency^ the Book and Journal Club collected
over five thousand dollars by voluntary subscription and in
addition to paying for the binding of many journals, we were
able to purchase annually about 270 books and subscribe to
56 journals. To those of us who know how crippled the
finances of the faculty were at that time, and how little was
available for the library fund, this money from the Book and
Journal Club was a treasure indeed.

To the older members of the faculty his work and zeal for
their interests was of wonderful help and assistance, and his
close association with them will always be looked back on
with the deepest and most lasting pleasure. To the younger,
some of whom are now among the older members of the
faculty, who knew him at that time and worshipped from afar,
his example should be a help to be better students and workers.
To the youngest members of the faculty, who, alas, knew him
not, it becomes a duty to emulate his efforts in historical study
and so join in the company of those who can find that all is
not dry and musty in the old discolored books upon our shelves.
It is only by thus fostering and helping along a search for old
truths that the newer ones assume a more crystalline appear-
ance and we are better able to value them in the light of
advancing thought.


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Online LibraryMinnie Wright BloggSir William Osler, bart. Brief tributes to his personality, influence and public service → online text (page 7 of 14)