On July 12th, we celebrate the 165th anniversary of the birth of Sir William Osler, a man who was elemental in the growth and life of MedChi as it entered its second hundred years.
Dr. Osler arrived in Baltimore in 1889, and stayed for 16 years. During that time, he was responsible for establishing the medical program at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Hospital. But it is what he accomplished at MedChi that we are ever thankful for.
When Osler arrived in Baltimore, MedChi was located at offices on Eutaw Street, which housed a small library of fewer than 5,000 mostly outdated volumes, and the librarian who lived on site. In short order, he joined MedChi, got involved in the Library and Journal Committees, helped hire a new professional librarian, Marcia Noyes, and began donating both books and funds to MedChi. He continued this tradition long after he left Hopkins and Baltimore. He was also responsible for getting MedChi to investigate and then build a purpose-build headquarters building, which we still occupy today. Our Osler Hall and Osler Hallway are named in his honor.
Osler’s most famous work, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, was published up until 2001 and in many languages. It made him very famous and very wealthy. In fact, he pledged his full salary to Hopkins during his tenure there.
Osler’s real claim to fame was the way medical education was conducted. He moved it from the academic to the practical. He established the interns/residents system of teaching medicine – a clinical clerkship – where the medical students would learn by doing. He advocated making rounds of the wards and bedside teaching, involving the patient.
At age 40, Osler was married to Grace Revere Gross, a widow whom he’d met in Philadelphia, and who was a descendant of Paul Revere. They had two children, one of whom died in infancy, and the other Revere, who was killed during World War One. He died in Oxford, England where he was Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University.
After his death, a book fund was established at MedChi in his name, and hundreds of books were purchased with the funds raised. A special bookplate was created by the medical illustrator and engraver, Max Brödel who was a friend of Osler’s. Going through the books in our stacks library, we still find numerous volumes with this bookplate as the front-piece.
MedChi is honored to have been associated with Sir William Osler, M.D. and his influence still echoes through our halls.
For more information, please check out the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine’s Profiles in Science about Sir William. Here.
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