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Sir William Osler Papers
mssOsler papers  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Sir William Osler Papers
    Dates: 1893-1939
    Collection Number: mssOsler papers
    Creator: Osler, William, Sir, 1849-1919
    Extent: 231 items in 1 box
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
    The Huntington Library
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Fax: (626) 449-3477
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the papers of physician Sir William Osler (1849-1919), who helped found Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and served as Regius Chair of Medicine at Oxford University, chiefly consisting of correspondence.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Sir William Osler Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    On long-term loan from the Los Angeles County Medical Association, 1992.

    Biographical Note

    Born in 1849, Sir William Osler rose through the ranks of professional medicine eventually becoming one of the world's most renowned physicians. As chair of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1885, he helped found the American Association of Physicians. Later, in 1893, he helped establish the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1905, he was appointed the Regius Chair of Medicine at Oxford University, where, in 1911, he received the honorary title of baronet.
    Throughout his career as an instructor, Osler developed a philosophy of medicine based on equal parts science and humanism. He insisted students talk and listen directly to patients, supplementing their classroom education with participatory residencies in hospital wards. Meanwhile, his many publications, including the much reprinted textbook, The Principles and Practices of Medicine (1892), significantly contributed to the professionalization of medicine in the late nineteenth century.
    In addition to his medical career, Osler gained fame for his wit and humor. He published several satirical articles under the pseudonym, "Egerton Yorrick Davis." During his farewell speech at John Hopkins, he infamously suggested retired men should be chloroformed instead of burdening society. The self-deprecating remark made national headlines, sparked debate, and further elevated Osler's notoriety.

    Scope and Content

    Correspondence forms the bulk of the Sir William Osler papers. These letters span the period from 1893-1939. They include Osler's own correspondence with his former student, C.N.B. Camac, concerning Camac's career and Osler's work. The collection also records the conversations between Osler and the prominent physicians William Sydney Thayer, and Henry Barton Jacobs. Also included are the letters exchanged between Camac, Harvey Cushing, and Lady Grace Revere Gross Osler about William Osler's career and the publishing of his biography. These letters reveal the inner workings of a dedicated scholar and the devotion of his students. Several letters detail the European travels of the Oslers, including postcards from Italy and France and ocean liners such as the Lusitania. Others discuss medical issues ranging from aneurisms to trypanosomiasis and Osler's passion for collecting rare books. There is one folder of miscellaneous correspondence and one letter book of Osler's.
    One folder includes collected ephemera, mainly newspaper clippings. This material highlights Osler's public persona and medical expertise. A number of obituaries and memorials describe Osler's profound contribution to modern, Western medicine.


    The collection is arranged by type. The majority of the collection is correspondence, which is arranged alphabetically by author.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Personal Names

    Osler, William, Sir, 1849-1919


    Medicine - History - 19th century - Sources
    Medicine - History - 20th century - Sources
    Medicine - Study and teaching - United States
    Physicians - United States - Correspondence


    Clippings (information artifacts)
    Letter books - United States - 19th century
    Letter books - United States - 20th century

    Alternate Author

    Camac, C.N.B. (Charles Nicoll Bancker), 1868-1940
    Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939
    Davis, Egerton Yorrick
    Jacobs, Henry Barton, 1858-1939, addressee
    Osler, Grace Revere Gross, Lady
    Thayer, William Sydney, 1864-1932, addressee