Minnie Wright Blogg.

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

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their discovery and acquisition, point out the notable passages,
and give the salient facts in the author's life history. For
many of us this was the beginning of our knowledge of the
history of medicine and of our own feeble attempts to follow
in his steps as collectors.

How reverently we handled and admired the rare little
volumes, of Linacre's grammar, or the spurious first edition
of the Eeligio, or Digby's Animadversions, with their choice

8 111

112 Sir William Oslee, Bart.

bindings hj Eiviere or Zaehnsdorff. How thrilled by the story
of the discovery of snch a treasure on a York bookstall, boimd
in with an Almanack and bought for half a crown. With what
delight we turned the pages of the tall copy of the Pseudoxia
Epidemica and dipped into the grave Sir Thomases discussion
of the verity of the pictures of God, or the popular idea " that
elephants have no knees." A beautiful Aldine from Mead's
own library brought out the story of that great collector and
his testamentary instruction that his library be sold so that
others might have some of the pleasures of acquisition which
he had so much enjoyed. We were given a glimpse into the
special lore of the bibliophile, and learned something of the
work of the pioneer printers and of the great presses of a later
date. We learned a little of the fonts of type and the water-
marks of papers, as well as the characteristics of the bindings
peculiar to certain periods. The nature of book auctions was
disclosed to us and we became familiar with the magic names
of Sotheby and Quaritch, until some of us found the perusal
of a good catalogue as exciting as a detective story. Still more
important, we heard about the more famous collections of
medical works, and began to project personal visits to the
Bodleian, the Eoyal College of Physicians and the Bibliotheque

But best of all and doubtless the ultimate object of all was
the gradual acquisition of an epitome of the history of medi-
cine which has kept us interested ever since those days.

Moreover, it was not merely the cultural value of a knowl-
edge of the beginnings of the profession, but the constant
lesson of the individual worker's triumph over handicaps of
isolation, poverty, ridicule or personal peril, to add some con-
tribution to the sum of knowledge, and the reiteration of the
theme that the painstaking and observant physician, even
though removed from the centers of learning and wide oppor-
tunity, has in the past contributed fundamentally to the
advancement of knowledge, and may hope to do so in th^

As A Bibliophile 113

Again, Dr. Osier stimulated in us an interest in the medical
writers of the early days of our own country and showed how
much might be found by the investigation of the early journals
and books, and this has led to the substantial contributions by
his associates and pupils to the history of medicine in the
colonies, the United States and Canada.

In conclusion, another side of Dr. Osier's bibliophilic
activity must be noted, that is, his generous interest in the
medical libraries of the country. He was not satisfied to
acquire rare and interesting volumes for himself, but was
constantly giving such books to the various professional
libraries with which he had been associated; thus, McGill,
Boston, The College of Physicians in Philadelphia and our
own Maryland Faculty and Johns Hopkins have repeatedly
received valuable acquisitions from him or from others whom
he had induced to give rare volumes or even whole collections.

We are happy to know how vastly " the chiefs '' collection
has grown since he removed to the University of Oxford, so
that it is now one of the very best in existence. The catalogue,
bibliographic, biographic and literary, of this great collection
of the epoch-making works of science occupies most of his
leisure, and will form another great contribution to the
literature of medicine, second only to the immortal Practice.

By Edward N. Brush

There are in connection with the task which has been
assigned to me many very pleasant aspects. To make a critical
analysis, to present a clear picture of Dr. Osier's literary style
demands, however, more time and space than are at my dis-
posal and above all more ability as a literary critic than I am
endowed with.

In reading Dr. Osier's contributions to the literature of
medicine, as well as his occasional addresses and essays, I am
tempted to linger here and there, to point out the clarity of
expression, the simplicity and beauty of diction and quote
passage after passage in illustration of my thesis. Such a
course would simplify the task before me because these quota-
tions would show the author's style better than any powers of
description or any ability of analysis I possess.

In his purely scientific work, as for example, in The
Principles and Practice of Medicine, the author's method and
his grasp of his subject are admirable. He follows the advice
of the friend of Cervantes when the author of Don Quixote
was in a quandary over the preparation of his preface,
" Nothing but pure nature is your business ; her you must
consult, and the closer you can imitate, your picture is the

In my student days some one placed in my hands a cojDy
of Watson's Practice.* While it was not recommended as a
text-book to follow as an exponent of the then recognized
principles of medical thought and practice, I found it one of
the easiest works to read and one from which I obtained much
of lasting value. Commenting upon this fact to my preceptor
I was told that I had fallen upon a book which possessed,
something not common in medical treatises, a good style.

* Lectures on the Principles and Practice of Phj^ic. By Thomas
Watson, M. D., etc., London, 1843.


116 SiK William Osler, Bart.

The same is true of Osier's writings upon the strictly
scientific aspect of medicine. Unity, order, clarity of descrip-
tion and ease of diction abound throughout his text-book and
his various monographs. A master of his subject, having made
the nature of disease his business, he imparts his information
in such a manner that the reader at no time finds it difficult,
because of ambiguous phraseology or doubtful expression, to
grasp his meaning. His thoughts are " linked with the wants
of his readers,'' and by the invisible chains which bind mind to
mind, he and his reader become one.

The reader finds that he has a message to impart, a principle
to establish, a rule of conduct to promulgate, and that he has
done so in a logical, attractive maner which compels attention ;
and that to my mind is the test and measure of good writing.

Another view of Osier as an author is revealed in his occa-
sional addresses and essays. In the two volumes before me —
" Aequanimitas and Other Addresses" and *^^ An Alabama
Student and Other Biographical Addresses " — Osier's style in
all its directness, strength and grace is shown in full measure.

In these volumes, as in other addresses not therein con-
tained, notably his farewell to his professional associates and
friends in Maryland under the title " Unity, Peace and Con-
cord," Osier exemplifies Buffon's dictum: "The style is the
man himself."

Sir Thomas Watson in his memorial of Latham, whose
"Lectures on Clinical Medicine" are examples of the best
English style, says : " His letters are treasures of good sense,
of lively and epigrammatic comments on men and things and
of shrewd and weighty reflections, wise advice and affectionate
greetings " ; and this can be with great truth applied to the
addresses and essays of Dr. Osier. Lively, epigrammatic,
shrewd, weighty and affectionate are all terms which well suit
my purpose, which reveal the man through his writing.
" Talent alone cannot make a writer," says Emerson, " there
must be a man behind the book, a personality which by birth
and quality is pledged to the doctrines there set forth."

Literary Style 117

With Byron one ^^ hates an author that's all author/' In
Orsler's case the author is all man, and the man reflects him-
self in his work. It is an easy task for those who have had the
pleasure and advantage of intimate association with him to
invoke his presence when reading his addresses, as for example,
"Internal Medicine as a Vocation,'^ "Medicine in the Nine-
teenth Century," "The Hospital as a College" and "The
Master Word in Medicine."

What, if any, are the secrets of Osler^s style ; upon what does
it depend? The answer, I think, is simply a love for and
thorough mastery of good literature and a message to convey
full of high ideals. One William Harrison, writing in 1577,
speaks of " an excellent vein of writing not beforetime re-
garded" which has become manifest in England. This he
intimates is the result not only of a knowledge on the part of
writers of their own tongue, but of an acquaintance with the
Latin and Greek and often with French and Spanish.

This excellent vein of writing soon became the glory of the
Elizabethan age. The development of higher ideals in English
national life was rapidly followed, as well as fostered, by the
great authors of the age of England's literary glory. Style,
literary excellence, came to be recognized as desirable, and
reached its highest manifestation. Back of it all, however, were
the ideals which fostered and gave material for the expression
of literary style. There was an atmosphere of a great elevation
of ideals, public and private, and at the same time tangible
objects of national ambition and glory. England was " con-
tending in the cause of the world as well as her own " and there
was an outburst of genius which found its counterpart in a
smaller degree many years later when England was contending
again the world-ambition of Napoleon.

Will a similar development follow the world's war out of
which we are just emerging?

When a man who has ideals and honesty of purpose and has
filled his mind with the productions of the master spirits of the
ages feels the call to write or speak, a beauty of literary style
almost inevitably results.

118 Sir William Oslee, Bart.

What were the Pierian springs from which Osier drank,
from which he attained, as has been said of him, " a breadth of
learning and a knowledge of general literature that astound

I would place first the English Bible. How often either by
direct quotation or paraphrase does one find in his addresses
and essays sentences and phrases from this well-spring of good

Of a liberal knowledge of the classics abundant evidence is
found and a ready ability to take text, and illustration as well,
from mythology.

With the masters of the English tongue from the early dawn
of English literature till the present he has clearly dwelt on
terms of greatest intimacy.

That half-hour devoted every day to communion with the
minds of the past finds lessons reflected in writing, but never
with any indication of servile cop3dng, Osler^s style is his own.

The last page of Aequanimitas has a list of books which
Osier has called a Bed-side Library for Medical Students.
This is: 1. Old and New Testament; 2. Shakespeare: 3.
Montaigne; 4. Plutarch's Lives: 5. Marcus Aurehus: 6. Epic-
tetus; 7. Eeligio Medici; 8. Don Quixote; 9. Emerson; 10.
Oliver Wendell Holmes — Breakfast-Table Series.

John Brown, of Edinburgh (Horae Subsecivae, p. -±00),
gives a list which he commends to the medical student. These
are ^' Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, D'ryden, Pope, Cowper,
Montaigne, Addison, Befoe Goldsmith. Fielding. Scott. Lamb,
Macaulay, Jeffrey, Sydney Smith, Helps and Thackeray."
Bro^Ti's list has nearly twice as many names as that given by
Osier, but in solid worth the shorter list outweighs the longer.

Dr. Osier's list fulfills in brief compass the requirements of
a liberal education and presents to the reader examples of the
best in literature.

Eeference has already been made to the fact that Dr. Osier
is reflected in his writings, that in the words of Taine " behind
the document there was a man."

Literary Style 119

In this instance that man had for years exercised, as I have
tried to show elsewhere, a singular and powerful influence on
medical education, hospital methods and in binding together
for harmonious action the members of his profession.

lie had encouraged the study of medical history and biog-
raphy and found time in the midst of duties, which might well
have availed as an excuse from further intellectual labors, to
contribute in large measure to these subjects.

Always, witli no false note, his cry has been for scientific
righteousness. He has had ideals and, as an idealist, he has
done what he has himself said other idealists have often done,
" gradually moulded to their will conditions the most adverse
and hopeless.''

All of this and much more is reflected in the text of Osler'.^
writing, presented often in epigrammatic form, reinforced by
text and example from many sources, enlivened by a humor
that is irresistible.

No medical contributor to general literature since Holmes
has possessed the saving sense of humor to the degree shown
in Osier's writings and no one could have used it with greater
discrimination or more certain effect.

Often when apparently writing in a most humorous vein he
has been the most serious in his meaning, and how often and
with what delicate touch does he expose some of our human
faults and foibles. I yield to the temptation to quote here an
illustration of that to which I have just referred. " Curious,
odd compounds are these fellow-creatures, at whose mercy you
will be ; full of fads and eccentricities, of whims and fancies ;
but the more closely we study their little foibles of one sort
and another in the inner life which we see, the more surely is
the conviction borne in upon us of the likeness of their weak-
nesses to our own. The similarity would be intolerable if a
happy egotism did not often render us forgetful of it. Hence
the need of an infinite patience and an ever-tender charity
toward these fellow creatures; have they not to exercise the
same toward us ? "

120 Sir William Osler, Bart.

To Osier's style may be applied part of his own estimate of
some of the older writers, Burton, Browne and Fuller: "A
rare quaintness, a love of odd conceits and the faculty of apt

In his writings he reminds us of what he has said of Browne,
" The charm of high thoughts clad in beautiful language may
win some readers to a love of good literature ; but beyond this
is a still greater advantage .... the Religio is full of the
counsels of perfection."

So, too, is there with Osier a " charm of high thoughts clad
in beautiful language" and always the "counsels of perfec-

Osier's literary work is yet unfinished, the three score years
and ten which he has attained have but ripened his judgment
and enlarged his field of vision. He has seen many of his ideals
become realities. The stress of the great world war has pressed
heavily upon him and brought to him a great sorrow. The
iron has entered into his soul. His future work will bear the
stamp of all these.

He has made his own estimate of the " princes of the blood "
in literature from our profession. He places Sir Thomas
Browne, Holmes and John Brown, of Edinburgh, in a group
high in the circle.

Osier possesses many things in common with these three in
literary style and in literary excellence, and deserves a place
in the same exalted fellowship.






compiled by

Minnie Wright Blogg

librarian, the johns hopkins hospital

Sir William Osier's bibliography covers a period of 49 years
(1870-1919). The 773 titles include both books and articles.
Many of these are in the library of The Johns Hopkins Hos-
pital and have added value as being personal gifts from the


On Canadian diatomaceae. Canad. Naturalist, Montreal, 1870, n. s.,
V, 142-151.
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat, Montreal, 1882, 8".
[Collect, repr., 1872-1882, i, no. 1.]


Action of certain reagents — atropia, physostigma and curare — on
the colorless blood-corpuscles. Quart. J. Micr. Sc, Lond., 1873,
n.s., xiii, 307-309.
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882, 8°.
[Collect, repr., 1872-1882, 1, no. 2.]


An account of certain organisms occurring in the liquor san-
guinis. FRep. by J. B. Sanderson.] Proc. Roy. Soc, Lond.,
1874, xxii, 391-398.
In his: Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 3.


Uterine thermometry. (Cohnstein, Die Thermometrie des Uterus.)
Translated from Virchow's Archiv, Bd. Ixii, Heft i. Canada
M. & S. J., Montreal, 1874-5, iii, 294-297.

Valedictory address to the graduates in medicine and surgery,
McGill University. Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1874-75, iii,
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882, 8^.
[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 4.]


122 Sir William Osler^ Bart.


Introductory remarks to, and synopsis of, practical course on
institutes of medicine. Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1875-76,
iv, 202-207.

Histological characters of the tumour, [A case of melano-sarcoma
of the choroid, by A. Proudfoot.] Canada M. & S. J., Montreal,
1875-76, iv, 298-300.

Histological and general description of the tumors. [Case of
glioma of both retinae. Extirpation of both eyes, by G. B.
Fenwick.] Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1875-76, iv, 306-308.

Notice of the recent researches on the pathology of small-pox.
Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1875-76, iv, 341-343.

On the pathology of miner's lung. Canada M. & S. J., Montreal,
1875-76, iv, 145-168.
In his: Collect, repr., 1872-82, 1, no. 7.

Case of scarlatina miliaris. Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1875-76,
iv, 49-54.
In his: Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 5.

On the histology of leucocythemia. Canada M. & S. J., Montreal,
1875-76, iv, 439-477.
In his: Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 6.

Clinical notes on small-pox. I. The initial rashe^. II. Haemor-
rhagic small-pox. III. A form of hsemorrhagic small-pox.
Montreal, 1876. Gazette P't'g House, 35 p., 8°.
Also: Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1876-77, v, 241; 289.
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882.
[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, nos. 8, 9, 10.]

Trichina spiralis. Extract from a lecture on " Animal parasites
and their relation to public health," being one of the Somer-
ville lectures of the Natural History Society. Canad. J. M. Sc,
Toronto, 1876, i, 134-135.


Introductory lecture on the opening of the forty-fifth session of the
medical faculty, McGill University, Oct. 1, 1877. Montreal,
1877, Dawson Bros., 19 p., 8°.
Also: Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1877-78, vi, 193-210.
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882, 8°.
[Collecl. repr. 1872-82, i, no. 14.]

Post-mortem, eleven hours after death. [Case of cerebral aneur-
ism, by J. Bell.] Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1876-77, v, 57-58.

Verminous bronchitis in dogs; read before the Montreal Veterinary
Medical Association, March 29. Veterinarian, Lond., 1877, i,
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat, Montreal, 1882, 8°.
[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 12.]

Beschaffenheit des Blutes und Knochenmarkes bei pernicioser
Anamie. Centralbl. f. d. med. Wissensch., Berl., 1877, xv, 498.
Ih his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882, 8°.
[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 18.]

Bibliography 123

Osier, W., and Bell, J.: Case of progressive pernicious anaemia.
Clinical report, by John Bell. Pathological report, with re-
marks, by William Osier. Montreal, 1877, Lovell Print. &
Publ. Co., 12 p., 12^
In Ms: Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 16.

Osier, W., and Gardner, W. : Case of progressive pernicious anaemia
(idiopathic of Addison). Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1876-77,
V, 385-404.
In his: Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 15.

Osier, W., and Gardner, W.: Ueber die Beschaffenheit des Blutes
und Knochenmarkes in der progressiven perniciosen Anamie.
Centralbl. f. d. med. Wissensch., Berl., 1877, xv, 258-260.
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882, 8^.
[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 17. J


On the pathology of the so-called pig-typhoid. London, 1878, Bail-
li^re, Tindall & Cox, 20 p., 8°.
Vet. J. & Ann. Comp. Path., Lond., 1878, vi, 385-402.
In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882.
[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 20.J

Over-strain of the heart, as illustrated by a case of hypertrophy,
dilatation and fatty degeneration of the heart, consequent
upon prolonged muscular exertion. Montreal, 1878, Gazette
P't'g House, 13 p. S\

Also: Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1877-78, vi, 385-395.

In his: Published Mem. & Communicat., Montreal, 1882, 8'.

[Collect, repr., 1872-82, i, no. 19.]

Phthisical cavities in left lung; gangrene of pulmonary tissue
about one of them. Canada M. & S. J., Montreal, 1877-78, vi,
Also: Montreal Gen. Hosp. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 37.

Pleura. Small fibroid thickenings on visceral layer. Canada M.
& S. J., Montreal, 1877-78, vi, 115-116.
Also: Montreal Gen. Hosp. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 40-41.

Fracture of Ist and 2d ribs near vertebrae, from direct violence;
deep abscess of the neck; obliteration of subclavian artery;
empyema. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i,

Necrosis of tibia. Ulcerative endocarditis, pyaemic pneumonia.
Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 12-13.

Necrosis of femur, pyaemic pneumonia; abscesses in superficial
muscles; pustular eruption on skin. Montreal Gen. Hosp.
Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 13-14.

Primary cancer of bodies of 2d and 3d vertebrae and heads of
corresponding ribs on right side. Secondary masses in ribs,
liver and brain. Chronic phthisis. Lobar pneumonia. Mon-
treal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 14-16.

A case of hypertrophy and dilatation of the heart; no valvular or
arterial disease; no chronic kidney affection; hydrothorax;
pulmonary apoplexy; general venous stasis. Montreal Gen.
Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 16-20.

124 Sir William Osler, Baet.

Aneurism of comnLencement of thoracic aorta, unsuspected during
life; death, from general tuberculosis. Montreal Gen. Hosp.
Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 20-21.

Sacculated aneurism of ascending portion of arch of aorta; rup-
ture into the right pleural sac. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path.
Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 21.

Sacculated aneurism of aorta, at termination of the arch, un-
suspected during life. Death from pneumonia. Montreal Gen.
Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 22.

Aneurism of hepatic artery. Right branch almost obliterated.
Multiple abscesses in the liver. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path.
Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 22-30.

Aneurismal dilatation of branches of pulmonary artery on the
walls of phthisical cavities. Death from haemoptysis. Mon-
treal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 30.

Aneurism at second bifurcation of the right middle cerebral
artery; rupture; extravasation of blood into the Sylvian fis-
sure, and laceration of substance of the temporosphenoidal
lobe, death in 36 hours. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep.
(1876-77), 1878, i, 30-32.

Ossification of greater portion of mucous membrane of trachea.
Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 32.

Pneumonia of the upper lobe of the right lung; extensive menin-
geal inflammation. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77),
1878, i, 33-34.

Almost entire hepatization of left lung; with small pneumonic
area in right. Extensive diphtheritic colitis. Montreal Gen.
Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 34.

Diabetes, phthisical cavity in right lung surrounded by hepatized
tissue. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i,

Chronic phthisis, almost entire destruction of both lungs. Healthy
portion involved in a pneumonia. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path.
Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 35.

Simple pneumonia of left lung, right-side,d pleurisy. Montreal
Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 35.

Pneumonia of right lung, uniform involvement of pleura covering
it. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77), 1878, i, 35-37.

Fibroid contraction and induration of entire right lung; cavity at
apex; displacement of heart; hypertrophy with dilatation of
right chambers. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77),
1878, i, 38-39.

Chronic phthisis; perforation of lungs; pneumothorax; dermoid
cyst of right ovary. Montreal Gen. Hosp. Path. Rep. (1876-77),
1878, i, 39-40.

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