[Copy of speech sent to Thomas McCrae (to be read at the introductory excercises of Jefferson Medical College)]
In Europe at the time, Osler was unable to give the speech at the introductory exercises of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia
due to the recent commencement of World War I and the accompanying difficulty in overseas travel. Instead, he sent it to
his American colleague Dr. McCrae to read in his stead. Osler recalled his early days in Philadelphia: the books that impressed
him, and the men of Jefferson College he admired.
[Description courtesy of McGill University.]
Soon after Osler's death in 1919, Lady Osler asked their good friend Dr. Harvey Cushing to write a biography. For this
project, Cushing gathered a wide variety of material, including a substantial amount of Osler correspondence and other memorabilia
borrowed from Osler's family, friends, and colleagues. He employed three secretaries to transcribe these documents, and
later donated the transcripts (along with his other working materials) to the Osler Library. Many of the original documents
were returned to the owners. The originals that were retained, together with the Cushing transcripts, constitute the largest
and most accessible collection of Osler's correspondence.
Harvey Cushing's "Life of Sir William Osler" was published by Oxford University Press in 1925, and was awarded
a Pulitzer Prize in 1926.
Number of Image Pages:
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Original Repository: Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University. Osler Library Archive Collections, P417: Harvey Cushing Fonds
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Sir William: Regius Professor at Oxford, 1905-1919
Memorandum for Dr. McCrae.
I am, of course, sadly disappointed not to be able to address the students at Jefferson this year. I owe much to the man at
the school - let me tell you in what way. The winter of 1869-70 I had a bedroom above the office of my preceptor Dr. James
Bovell. Of whose library I had "the run". In the long winter evenings, instead of reading my textbooks, 'Gray'
and 'Fownes' and 'Kirkes', I spent hours browsing among folios and quartos, and the promiscuous literature
with which his library was stocked. I date my mental downfall from that winter, upon which, however, I look back with unmixed
delight. I became acquainted then with three old 'Jeff' men - Eberle, Dunglison and Samuel D. Gross. The name of the
first I had already heard in my physiology lectures in connection with the discovery of cyanide potassium in the saliva; but
in his Treatise of the Materia Medica, and in his Treatise on the Practice of Medicine, (in the yellow brown calfskin that
characterized Philadelphia medical books of the period) I found all sorts of useless information and therapeutics so dear
to the heart of a second-year medical student. Eberle was soon forgotten as the years passed by, but it was far otherwise
with Robley Dunglison, a warm friend to generations of American medical students. Thomas Jefferson did a good work when he
imported him from London, as Dunglison had all the wisdom of his day and generation combined with a colossal industry. He
brought great and well deserved reputation to Jefferson College. After all, there's no such literature as a Dictionary,
and the twenty-three editions through which Dunglison past is a splendid testimony to its usefulness. It was one of my standbys,
and I still have an affection for the old editions of it, which did such good service. (And by the way, if anyone of you among
your grandfather's old books finds the first edition published in 1833 send it to me, please). But the book of Dunglison
full of real joy to the student with the Physiology, not so much knowledge,
That was all concentrated in 'Kirkes', but there were so many nice trimmings in the shape of good stories.
One day, we had returned from an interesting postmortem, and I asked my preceptor where to look for a good account of softening
of the stomach, and he took from the shelf capital S. G. Gross's Pathological Anatomy, 2nd edition. I suppose there is
not a man in this room has opened the book - even great textbooks and I like their authors - and yet if anyone wishes to read
a first-rate account of gastro-malacia, he cannot do better than turn to the book just mentioned. And look, too, at the account
of Typhoid Fever, written remember in 1845, five years before the differences between typhus and typhoid were recognized in
England. Many and many a time I have had occasion to refer to his work, and always with advantage. Later I came to reverence
the author as the Nestor of American surgeons. Not many years afterwards I got into mental touch with two more Jefferson men
- Samuel Henry Dixon, one of the most brilliant teachers in medicine the school has ever had. His essays on "Life, sleep,
pain, etc." are full of good matter, and especially let me commend to you his Study on Pneumonia. The other was John K.
Mitchell, the great father was still greater son, whom I learned to know in connection with his early studies on the germ
theory of disease.
I really came to Philadelphia through the good offices of Jefferson men. Early in the eighties I used to earn an honest penny
by writing articles for the Medical News, of which Minis Hays with the editor, with Samuel W. Gross and Parvin the active
collaborators. In 1884 when Professor Stille resigned and Dr. William Pepper took the Chair of Medicine, there was a strong
local field into the Chairman of Clinical Medicine. One day Samuel Gross said to Pepper "There's a young chap in the
North who seems to dot his 'i's' and cross his 't's'. You'd better look them up". Well, the
upshot was that the plan of the Medical News editorial committee succeeded - I got the Chair. No small measure of the happiness
of the five happy years I spent in Philadelphia came from my association with Jefferson men. Among the surgeons, Keen and
Samuel W. Gross became intimate friends. They, with Brinton, Mears and Hearn, maintained the splendid surgical traditions
of the school. With the seniors in medicine, Bartholow and DaCosta, I never got on quite so intimate terms, but they were
always encouraging and friendly. The younger Jefferson set became my fast friends, particularly Wilson and Hare.
With best wishes for the progressive growth of the school, with which are associated many of the foremost names in the history
of American medicine.