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Sir William Osler papers

Identifier: MSS 2/145-02

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of letters, 1885 to 1919, written by Sir William Osler. The time span covered by the collection includes Osler's years in Philadelphia (18841889), at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland (1889-1904), and as Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, England (1905-1919). Recipients of Osler's letters include Thomas B. Futcher (1871-1938), Guy Hinsdale (1858-1948), W. H. Jefferys (1871-1945), William W. Keen (1837-1932), E. B. Krumbhaar (1882-1966), S. Weir Mitchell (1829-1914), and William Pepper (1874-1947). Also present are letters to Osler from Horatio C. Wood (1874-1958).

In a few of his letters, Osler discusses patients and their case histories, but most of the correspondence is personaljin nature. In many letters, Osler comments on his colleagues' latest publications or lectures.

Some of the correspondence in the collection pertains to Osler's participation in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; in a letter of 9 January 1885, Osler submits the first installment of his fellowship dues. Also present is a resolution (22 December 1916) signed by thirty four members of the College of Physicians to convey their regrets at Osler's absence from their latest meeting. In his letter to John Ashhurst (21 February 1894), Osler donates money for the W. S. W. Ruschenberger portrait, and in his letter to William W. Keen (18 July 1908?), Osler mentions the construction of the new College building.

Other letters in the collection document Osler's passion for collecting rare medical books and manuscripts. In his letters to S. Weir Mitchell (12 December 1911? and 16 March 1912), Osler discusses his most recent acquisitions; he also comments on the William Harvey manuscripts. In his 1911 letter to Mitchell, Osler mentions his acceptance of the Siliman Lectureship at Yale. Many of the letters in the collection inform the recipients of Osler's latest travels and appointments. In his letter to (John Bingham?) Roberts, Osler announces his decision to accept a position at Johns Hopkins; in a letter to J. C. Wilson, Osler explains that he has been awarded the Regius Professorship of Medicine at Oxford.

Of special interest in the collection are two letters sent to Osler by Horatio C. Wood. In these letters, Wood discusses a book of poetry, First and Last (Philadelphia, 1864), written by his father, George B. Wood. Osler apparently was interested in obtaining a copy of this rare work. Wood also discusses some of the recent events of World War I. Also of interest is Osler's letter to Thomas B. Futcher (28 October 1919); in the letter, Osler discusses his latest travels in Jersey and Glasgow and reports on his recent illnesses. Osler died two months later.


  • 1885 - 1919


Biographical / Historical

Sir William Osler, physician, clinician, and teacher, was born in Bond Head, Ontario, on 12 July 1849. In 1892, he married Grace Revere Gross, the widow of physician S. W. Gross. They had one son, Edward Revere (d. 1917). Osler died in Oxford, England, of pleurisy, empyema, and pneumonia following bronchitis, on 29 December 1919.

Osler received a B.A. from Trinity College in Toronto in 1868, then an M.D. from McGill University in 1872. From 1874 to 1884, he was Professor of the Institutes of Medicine at McGill. From 1884 to 1889, he taught clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and had the oversight of two wards in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was also on the medical staff of Philadelphia Hospital, 1885-1889, and an Attending Physician at the Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital, 1887-1889. From 1889 to 1904, Osler was Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University where he helped to organize the medical school and promoted clinical instruction. In 1904, he was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and held this post until his death.

Osler wrote many articles and monographs, including The Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892). He became a baronet in 1911, was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and a fellow of the Royal Society, and became a fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1885.


1 Box

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection of Sir William Osler letters were originally part of the Autograph Collection of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1992.
Sir William Osler papers
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States