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William Osler Letters Collection Guide: Home

This guide provides a description of the "William Osler Letters" digital collection and a how-to for searching the collection. It also includes biographical and bibliographical information on the world-renowned physician Sir William Osler.

Sir William Osler, 1849-1919

Photo credit: Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University

A Continual Remembrance: Letters from Sir William Osler to his friend Ned Milburn, 1865-1919

This resource was written by UAB Professor of Medicine, Howard L. Holley, in 1968. It provides context to the letters in the Reynolds-Finley Library and biographical information on William Osler's life, especially while writing the letters. It is the sources of the majority of the biographical information in this guide. For further information, view the RFHL catalog record for this item.

Letters Collection

Over the span of his life and successful medical career, William Osler maintained a regular correspondence with his close friend, Edward Fairfax Milburn (Ned Milburn). The Reynolds-Finley Historical Library holds 59 of these letters, and they are now digitized and viewable on the UAB Digital Collections site. These letters are divided into different chronological sections of his life including his younger and later life, as the letters covering the early years of his professional life were lost. The available letters reveal an important friendship that surely impacted his medical contributions. "Truly, in the enthusiastic reports of the young schoolboy and in the kind and thoughtful letters of the mature man can be sensed the immense vitality and unbounded mind of a man who demonstrated a concern in everyone and everything around him." (A Continual Remembrance, 1968, xii)

The educational purpose of this LibGuide is to provide biographical information on Sir William Osler, context to the library's letters, and instruction on navigating the digital William Osler Letters Collection.

Brief Biography

"The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease."

- Sir William Osler

Sir William Osler was a world-renowned physician and medical pioneer, and is often referred to as the "Father of Modern Medicine". He was one of the founding members of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, and perhaps his greatest achievement was his creation of the residency training program for physicians. Believing that patient care and medical care were equivalent, he was the first to require clinical training in addition to lecture-based education for medical students, to provide greater experience for medical students to interact with patients and better attend to their emotional as well as physical needs. In 1968, Dr. Howard Holley wrote of Olser, "His idea that education 'is a lifelong process' has been proven over and over again, while his human qualities of kindliness and unselfishness are as real today as they were over half a century ago." (A Continual Remembrance, 1968, xi). His compassionate, patient-based approach to medical care shifted turn of the century medicine, and the impact of his contributions are still evident today.

Edward Fairfax Milburn, 1848-1926

Photo credit: Reproduction of image. Holley, Howard L. A Continual Remembrance, 1968.

Letters Collection Publication Guidelines

  • Permission to publish images will require the completion of a separate permission agreement processed through the University’s legal office. Ask staff for details.
  • All material used should be credited appropriately to the “Reynolds-Finley Historical Library, University of Alabama at Birmingham.” Proper citation forms can be provided for publication.
  • In granting permission to use materials, the University of Alabama at Birmingham does not waive any proprietary rights in the material. The patron takes full responsibility for securing permission from the owner of the copyright or literary right in the event of publication. The patron also assumes responsibility for obeying any privacy or legal regulations regarding the use of the material.

*These policies apply to the letters of the collection found on the Digital Collections site and not the images within this guide.

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