Sir William Osler is considered to be one of the most influential and beloved physicians of all time. His quirky sense of humour, powerful speeches, and a revolutionising approach towards medical education has rightly earned him the title: Father of Modern Medicine.
Timeline: 1849 to 1918
Place of study:
- Trinity College, Toronto
- Toronto Medical School
- McGill University, Montreal
- University College, London
- Osler’s life almost describes the plot of a great wartime novel.
- As a young boy, Osler was very inquisitive and loved to play pranks. He was often a truant. This got him into trouble with his professors quite often. (relatable much?)
- His life took a different turn when he met Reverend William Arthur Johnson who introduced him to natural history.
- With Johnson’s guidance, Osler soon developed a passion for natural science.
- Despite his inclination towards natural history, Osler took up studying for the ministry in Toronto.
- However, for him the curriculum was lacklustre and he ended up attending several medical lectures by Dr James Bovell, a renowned physician of the time.
- The step from the study of nature to the study of man was an easy one for Osler. He completed his education in the field of medicine.
- During his time in Montreal, post the Civil war, he took an interest in educational reforms.
- He advocated for the extension of clinical training, and modernizing of exams, among other changes.
- One of his most interesting systems was the “teaching at the bedside” practice, which warranted practical experience to the medical graduates.
- Osler became the country’s foremost clinical educator as well as a renowned diagnostician with a large consulting practice, and an active member of many professional groups. By 1900, he was one of the best-known physicians in the world.
- Soon after his return to England, Osler was knighted by King George V for his contributions to medicine. (Sir William, the knight in shining labcoat)
- During World War I, he helped organize some of the military hospitals in the Oxford area and served as attending physician to several. He lost his son to the war.
- Sir William succumbed to pneumonia at the age of seventy.
- Osler described himself as a “bibliomaniac” and “a lifelong student”.
- He published over 1,300 articles in his lifetime.
- His most significant publication was the scientific textbook of medicine titled ‘The Principles and Practices of Medicine’ which was published in 1892.
Fun Fact: Osler was famous for being a prankster. Under the pseudonym of Egerton Davis, he wrote several letters to the editors of medical journals describing completely fictional clinical entities!
“The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business. “
– Sir William Osler
1. Biographical Overview | William Osler – Profiles in Science Accessed from https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/spotlight/gf/feature/biographical-overview Accessed on 31st March 2021.
2. Sir William Osler and Internal Medicine | About Internal Medicine Accessed from https://www.acponline.org/about-acp/about-internal-medicine/sir-william-osler-and-internal-medicine Accessed on 31st March 2021.
Image used in this blog are for representation purposes only.
Image taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Osler#/media/File:William_Osler_photograph.jpg