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December 22, 1969

Sir William Osler: Teacher and Bibliophile

Author Affiliations

From the Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco. Dr. Holman is professor of surgery, emeritus, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.

JAMA. 1969;210(12):2223-2225. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160380037008

Delightfully informal, erudite beyond comparison, entertaining but surprisingly effective, Sir William Osler enjoyed teaching. So interestingly and compactly were his presentations arranged, it took little effort to remember them.

At his death in 1919 at the age of 70, he was characterized universally as the greatest physician and medical teacher of his time, perhaps even of all time. He had been professor of medicine at four renowned universities—McGill, Pennsylvania, Hopkins, and Oxford. He had written a textbook of medicine that became the bible of the practitioner and student of his day. Sixteen editions, 84 reprintings, and 300,000 copies sold gave evidence of Osler's widespread influence on his own and succeeding generations of doctors. It was translated into German, French, Spanish, and, believe it or not, Chinese.

It was at Oxford that I knew him, a gracious and generous host—especially to American doctors and students, a profound student of the classics