Inspiration from William Osler

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:  My thanks to my wise and generous friend Dr. Richard Johnson for lending me volume 1 of  The Life of William Osler.   Here are some gems forthwith!


Snippets of William Osler

excised from

“The Life of William Osler”
Harvey Cushing Oxford at the Clarendon Press 1926


“After ten years of hard work, I leave this city a rich man, not in this world’s goods, for such I have the misfortune – or the good fortune – lightly to esteem; but rich in the goods which neither rust nor moth have been able to corrupt, in treasures of friendship and good fellowship, and in those treasures of widened experience and a fuller knowledge of men and managers which contact with the bright minds of the profession ensures.”

–   William Osler upon leaving McGill for Johns Hopkins University,  1884



May THIS be an inspiration to all doctors:

“There are men and classes of men that stand above the common herd: the soldier and the shepherd, the sailor and the shepherd not infrequently, the artist rarely, rarer still, the clergyman, the physician, almost as a rule. He is the flower (such as it is) of our civilization and when that stage of man is done with, and only remember to be marveled at in history,  he will be thought to have shared as little as any in eh defects of that period, and most notable exhibited the virtues of the race. Generosity he has, such as is possible to those who practice an art, never to those who drive a trade; discretion, tested by a hundred secrets;  tact, tried in a thousand embarrassments; and what are more important, Heraclean cheerfulness and courage,  So it is that he brings air and cheer into the sickroom and often enough, though not so often as he wishes, brings healing.”

Dedication to “Underwoods”




Characteristics of William Osler

“He was not clubbable … he did not regard himself as a club man.”


Olser was famous for his practical jokes

Regarding the Mystery of  Dr. Edgerton Yorrick Davis, M.D.

“M’Connachie I should explain, as I have undertaken to open the innermost doors, is the name I give to the unruly half of myself: the writing half. We are complement and supplement. I am the half that is dour and practical and canny, he is the fanciful half that flies around on one wing. I should not mind him doing that, but he drags me with him.”



Regarding  a house call to Walt Whitman:

“I have seen what the tidy housewife calls a “clutter” but nothing to compare with the front room at number 320 Mickle Street. At the corner near the window, the head and upper part of a man were visible – everywhere else covering the floor, the chairs, the table, were, to use his own description, “heaps of books, manuscripts, memoranda, scissorings, proof sheets, pamphlets, newspapers, old and new magazines, mysterious looking literary bundles tied up with stout strings”    … Walt Whitman was a picture of a man who had aged beautifully, or more properly speaking, majestically.  The eyebrows thick and shaggy and the man seemed lost in a hirsute canopy.  Whitman has expressed feeling better than anyone else speaking of his “strange voice”  …. and he,  acknowledging that critics and lovers of poetry may well be excused the “chilly and unpleasant shudders which will assuredly run through them, to their very blood and bones, when they first read my lines and exclaim” If this is poetry, where must its forgoers stand?”


“A Scythian visitor to Delphi”, as Osler had never read a line written by Whitman.


Introduced to Walt Whitman by Dr. Bucke who explained:

“Leaves of grass had meant for him a spiritual enlightenment, a new power in life, new joys in an existence on a plane higher than he had ever hoped to reach. All this with the accompanying physical exaltation expressed by dilated pupils and the intensity of utterance that were embarrassing to uninitiated friends.”


Osler’s advice to students:  “Observe  record and publish”.


Upon considering the contract for teaching at Harvard:

“The professor supposed to advise and generally befriend the students of Cambridge, to give some lectures but not too many, to act as consulting physician among them  on occasion.”


“A man is sane morally at 30 , rich mentally at 40 and wise spiritually at 50…”


Sir William Osler


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