Monday, August 28, 2017

Revere Osler: December 28, 1895 - August 29, 1917

In March 1915, Revere Osler went off with one of the Canadian contingents, and was given duty at one of the hospitals as an orderly officer. The hospital was one of the best in England, and had been erected at Cliveden, the Astor estate. Osler was a consultant to this hospital and visited the McGill Unit at Camiers. A postcard sent from Montreuil-sur-Mer, on the way, is characteristically Oslerian: “Here with Revere – such a lovely walled town – the first stopping place of Sterne on his Sentimental Journey. Am sending you a full account of my trip.” How many Sterne enthusiasts would remember that at such a time?

Revere was now an assistant quartermaster at Camiers, awaiting his call to the combatant forces. Before this time came, he had a leave and went home to Oxford where, during his stay, the house caught fire and threatened the loss of the library. All this time, the “Open Arms”, as the house at 13 Norham Gardens came to be called, was just what its nickname implied. It was always full of guests coming and going. Everyone turned to the Oslers in their trouble.
Revere had one more leave. He was now with the Royal Field Artillery and was getting his training. Osler took refuge in his books, and evinced an active interest in his growing collection, as many references in his letters of the period testify.
His activities in the hospital continued and many a cable went to Canada to cheer the recipients. These usually read, “Has been seen by Osler considers doing well”. He wrote many letters and received and answered hundreds of cables of inquiry from anxious relatives. He was much moved by the injustice of a Canadian Commission appointed to investigate the care of Canadians in the hospitals. As a protest, he resigned his position as consultant to the Canadian Hospitals, but later on, when the commission was replaced, his resignation was withdrawn.
Towards the end of 1916, Revere was in the 593 Brigade, Battery A, and was stationed on the Seine right in the thick of the fight. [This was the Battle of Ypres)
Until August 29 of the next summer, he continued at it. Then, while he was at work preparing to move the battery, a shell struck, and wounded him severely in his chest, thigh and abdomen. He was carried to the dressing station, but in spite of transfusion and operation, he died before morning. The great-great-grandson of Paul Revere was buried near the place he fell.
Osler made the following entry concerning this blow:
I was sitting in my library, working on the new edition of my textbook, when a telegram was brought in, “Revere dangerously wounded, comfortable and conscious, condition not hopeless.” I knew this was the end. We had expected it. The Fates do not allow the good fortune that has followed me to go with me to the grave – call no man happy till he dies. 

The War Office telephoned at nine in the evening that he was dead. A sweeter laddie never lived, with a gentle, loving nature. He had developed a rare taste in literature and was devoted to all my old friends in the spirit – Plutarch, Montaigne, Browne, Fuller and above all, Izaak Walton, whose Compleat Angler he knew by heart, and whose “Lives” he loved.

There is no need to attempt to picture the sorrow or the bravery of the stricken father. Sir William and Lady Osler remained a day in seclusion and then courageously took up the challenge of comforting others. He continued his routine duties in the cataloguing of his library. He resumed work on a new edition of his textbook, the work interrupted by the news of his son’s death.
Osler entertained soldiers and friends, trying to be his old self and even deceiving those who did not know him well. But all the time, he continued to lose weight. To a friend who had had a similar loss, he wrote:
Grief is a hard companion, particularly to an optimist, and to one who has been a stranger to it for many years. We decided to keep the flag flying and let no outward action demonstrate, if possible, the aching hearts. 
The Edward Revere Osler Memorial Fund was established by his parents at the Johns Hopkins University. This took the form of a Tudor and Stuart Club, with club rooms and a library, the nucleus of which was Revere’s own collection. The Club was “to encourage the study of English literature of the Tudor and Stuart periods” and the fund was for the “purchase of further books relating to these periods, and in the promotion of good fellowship and a love of literature among the members.”

This passage is from 
"Sir William Osler: A Personal Biography" by John Ruhrรคh, MD, 
published in 2015 by MedChi.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back at Home

Shockingly, we do not seem to have a copy of Osler's Practice of Medicine in our collection. I am positive that there must have been one here at some point. Surely the good Sir William Osler himself must have given a copy? But as I've searched the shelves in the stacks, I've never some across one.
After my trip to McGill, I realized that I needed to rectify that omission. So I put in a query for the book on Ebay and came up with a copy that hit all of the right buttons. It was old and it was inexpensive!

The copy is dated 1894, and is apparently a second edition copy. It's missing its back cover, but that's okay.

There's a penciled note on one page of James Wilson Fox of Buffalo, NY.  I can't quite decipher whether there's a date above or below it.
There was a Dr. Fox in the area close to Buffalo, but he disappears in the 1920's.

This copy seems also to have been the property of Dr. Oscar J. Eichhorn who was at the University of Maryland in 1917-1918. His delightful bookplate was on the front cover. 
And there is also a note indicating it was a birthday present to "Dad" on June 29, 1954. 
As I mentioned, I bought the book on eBay from a seller in Kentucky, so who knows where he got it.

But what really matters is that there's now a copy at MedChi once again. It will have a special place in the Krause Room, which was originally the Reading Room. 

Although Osler would not have had the chance to spend time in this room, he talked at several times about how much it meant to him to be with older and younger physicians discussing medicine and sharing information.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Grey Lady, a Doctor's Coupe

As I was sorting through the pictures of Marcia I found at the Maryland Historical Society, one of them caught my eye, mainly because it wasn't a picture of Marcia. 

It was a picture of her car, which she called "The Grey Lady", and along with the photograph, there was a little card, explaining the car and offering people a ride in it. She also mentions that the car has her monogram on the door! 
I was curious about the car, and could get a general date of the time period because the picture was taken in front of 1211 Cathedral Street, which was built in 1909. I estimated the car to be late 1910's or so, but checked with a friend who collects vintage cars. He confirmed the general date, and informed me that this particular car was known as a "doctor's coupe" and that it wasn't a Ford, because at that time, Ford only made black cars. So it was likely a Buick or a Dodge. 
Apparently, small cars like this, with two seats and a large trunk, were preferred by physicians who made house calls, and could carry a nurse and a lot of equipment. The coupe had to be dependable in all sorts of weather, day or night, so it was an enclosed car.

Unfortunately, most of the early 1900's Medical Journals are bound, and have had the advertising pages at the beginning and ends of the volumes removed, so I can't check and see if there are adverts for these Doctor's Coupes. 
What is interesting is that Marcia, probably in her early 40's at that time, had her own car and was driving herself around the city and environs. She was the Executive Secretary of the Faculty at that time, and probably had a lot of meetings with physicians. They couldn't always be expected to come to her. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Letters Between Old Friends

I recently spent an afternoon at the archives at the Maryland Historical Society a week ago, specifically searching for more information about our Marcia Noyes. A number of years ago, many of our files were transferred to the Historical Society, so that much of the history of medicine in Maryland would be centrally located.

There was a file with letters to and from Sir William Osler, and his wife, Lady Grace Osler, as well as Osler's nephew, William W. Francis, who became the guardian and organizer of Osler's massive collection of books. 

Francis and Marcia were about the same age and knew each other through Osler, with whom Francis lived for several years. When Osler's books were transferred to McGill University, Francis came along with them and became the first Osler Librarian.

"Dr. Billy" and "Sister Marcia" kept in touch, bound by their love of Osler, and their professional love of books. Both were involved with the Medical Library Association (MLA). Letters between the two are funny and candid, in the way that long-time friends have. 

The two grew old together through their letters, and commiserated about their ailments. Both were sad that Francis's hospitalization prevented him from travelling to Baltimore for Marcia's 50th Anniversary party, and in their letters, it was clear that they knew they'd never see each other again after one last MLA meeting. 

On Marcia's death, Francis sent a telegram to the Faculty, with the following words: Well done good and faithful Sister Marcia. Farewell to Osler's earliest from his latest librarian.

William Willoughby Francis died in 1959.