Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Life of Sir William Osler - Winner, Biography, 1926

The Life of Sir William Osler
By: Harvey Cushing
Clarendon Press, 1925

I spent WEEKS plowing through the hundreds of pages of The Life of Sir William Osler. Now, I'm not looking for sympathy - just putting a little perspective on the amount of time it has taken me to update this blog. This book contained every single, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny fact ever available on Sir William Osler. That is a LOT of information. Add to that the fact that the author, Harvey Cushing, was a neurosurgeon. As you can imagine his writing style wasn't exactly flowery or poetic. Just the dry facts. All of this for a book about someone that I had never heard of and would venture to guess that most who read this haven't heard of either.

Sir William Osler has been known as the father of modern medicine. He was the first Physician-in-Chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and contributed to the development of Johns Hopkins Medical School. At a time when medical education focused on lectures in the classroom, Osler emphasized the importance of spending time in hospitals studying actual patients. He established the first medical residencies as an opportunity for more hands-on education.

I would be interested to know if any doctors or med students out there know of Osler. Perhaps this just isn't my world. But, I also appreciate the opportunity to learn about things I've never encountered.


RC said...

I hope someday that jepardy has a catagory someday with 1920s pulitzer prize winners. You would school!

Anonymous said...

Yes, as a physician of 20+ years I have heard of Osler. In fact, he is truly an inspiring man...and famous in the odd world of we medicine folk! I'd suggest you read, instead, Michael Bliss' (History Prof, Univ Toronto) biography of Osler. Though you may not have time, his treatment of Osler is SO much better than Cushing's. And WONDERFUL writing! Cushing was no writer but was good at collecting details and though he had his own demons was another early doc to whom we owe so much in modern medicine.

On another note, I found your blog because I am reading "A Daughter of The Middle Border" because I live 10 miles from West Salem and thought I should be familiar with the Pulitzer Prize winner from our rural area. I think by "daughter" he was referring to Zulime since his focus was truly on his mother and his mother's wish for a daughter. I think, in a way, it was all a tribute to his mother and her wish for a daughter. Buy, hey, I'm no literary expert...and I did wonder, too, if he meant Zulime or Mary. Wonderful blog!

AK said...

Thank you for your comments. I'm very happy to have the opinion of a phyisician. I had heard that Bliss' biography was better, and it probably would have been much more enjoyable to read! Too bad he didn't win a Pulitzer instead of Cushing!

You'll have to let me know what you think about A Daughter of the Middle Border once you finish it. I definitely see your argument for who Garland was referring to as the "daughter." Do you also plan to read A Son of the Middle Border? I haven't read it but would be curious to hear how it is.

Anonymous said...

I'm an incoming first year med student. I've tried reading Cushing's take on Osler, but I haven't made much of a dent- and I'm only on volume one. The Bliss recommendation is much appreciated.

There's some fascinating quotes that Dr. Osler has made about the practice of medicine. I think that's how I first heard about him.

Thanks for sharing your experience