Collection RBSC-ARC-1739 - Sir William Osler collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Sir William Osler collection

General material designation

  • Textual record
  • Graphic material

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  • Variations in title: Previously known as Sir William Osler fonds

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Physical description area

Physical description

10 cm of textual records
6 Photostats
4 illustrations

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Name of creator


Biographical history

William Osler was a medical philosopher who was born in 1849 in the town of Bond Head, north of Toronto. He and his family lived there until 1857 when they moved to Dundas. In 1867 Osler enrolled in divinity studies at Toronto’s Trinity College, where one of his teachers persuaded him to enroll in medicine instead. He graduated with a medical degree from McGill University in 1872, after which he pursued post-graduate studies in London, Berlin, and Vienna. He returned to McGill in 1874 to lecture in medicine and pathology. In 1883 he was elected a fellow of the British Royal College of Physicians.

He went on to accept a position as professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1884. Five years later he was the top choice to become Chief of Medicine at the new Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he taught students at patients’ bedsides rather than from a textbook. While teaching at Johns Hopkins, Osler wrote <em>Principles and Practice of Medicine: Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine </em> (1892), a notable textbook on modern medicine. In 1898 he was one of the eight founding members of the Association of Medical Librarians, as the Medical Library Association was known until 1907.

In 1905 Osler was offered and accepted the position of Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University. Six years later he was made a baronet for his contributions to the field of medicine. He died on December 29, 1919 at the age of 70 due to pneumonia developed as a result of influenza.

Custodial history

Letters were bought from Dr. Felix Cuhna in 1965 with Zeitlin and Ver Brugge being the dealers involved in the purchase. The collection formed part of the Charles Woodward Memorial Room collection until it was transferred to Rare Books and Special Collections in 2015.

Scope and content

Collection consists of letters, newspaper clippings, and articles relating to Sir William Osler’s career and involvement with the Medical Library Association.

Notes area

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Collection is arranged by material type. The collection is divided into series of letters according to whether Sir William Osler was the sender or receiver of the correspondence. Arrangement was inherited from Woodward Memorial Library.

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Alpha-numeric designations

The roman numerals are part of the cataloguing system employed at Woodward Memorial Library. They are no longer in sequential order.

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RAD compliant finding aid compiled by M. Hunter, July 2015.

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