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January 31, 1977

Osier and "The Fixed Period": An Addendum

Author Affiliations

St Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center New York

JAMA. 1977;237(5):446. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270320024003

To the Editor.—  Many physicians interested in American medical history have heard of William Osler's famous address, "The Fixed Period," the title taken from Anthony Trollope's novel of that name, published in 1882. The address, on Feb 22, 1905, was given on Osier's departure from Baltimore for Oxford.1 In it, Osler said,The teacher's life should have three periods, study until twenty-five, investigation until forty, profession until sixty, at which age I would have him retired on a double allowance. Whether Anthony Trollope's suggestion of a college and chloroform should be carried out or not I have become a little dubious, as my own time is getting so short.Osler's candor, humor, and whimsy had to withstand his reputation as a practical joker, and the latter may have played a role in the unwarranted antagonism he stirred up. Newspapers and magazines played up the chloroform theme, often implying it