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William Osler Letters Collection Guide: The Early Years

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.

William Osler while a prefect at Trinity College Grammar School, 1867

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

Barrie School, where Osler and Milburn first met in 1864

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

The Early Years (1865-1867)

William Osler was born in Bond Head, Ontario on July 12, 1849 to Featherstone and Ellen Osler.  He grew up in Dundas, Ontario and started at Barrie Grammar School in 1864, where he met his life-long friend, Edward (Ned) Milburn. After Barrie, Osler enrolled in the college preparatory school, Weston, where he first became interested in science. Under the direction of Dr. James Bovell, a physician and a naturalist, Osler gained experience in zoology and in medicine while at Weston.

Osler later lived with Dr. Bovell, and studied under him when he was accepted to the Toronto School of Medicine in October 1868. Osler's time at Trinity College proved to be essential as it convinced him that medicine was his true calling.

The First 16 Letters

The first 16 letters of this collection (listed below) range from January of 1865 to April of 1867. They cover William Osler's time at Barrie School, Weston and Trinity College. Topics found within these early years include Osler's athletic pastimes, academic experiences, and general commentary about his life.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (01) January 10, 1865

In this letter Osler discusses his disappointment in not visiting with Ned Milburn during his travels in Toronto.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (02) July 13, 1865

In this letter Osler discusses his admission to the school at Weston and his pastimes in Dundas.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (03) August 1, 1865

In this letter Osler discusses his pastimes during his stay at his family home in Dundas.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (04) October 17, 1865

In this letter Osler discusses his return to his school, Barrie, for the fall semester.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (05) January 24, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses the operations of his new school, Weston.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (06) February 28, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses his pastimes at school.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (07) March 2, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses his dislike of being punished for an incident at school.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (08) March 22, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses meeting up with Ned while on break from Trinity College.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (09) May 9, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses Ned's correspondence with young ladies and apologizes for his inability to write letters as well as Ned.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (10) May 29, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses his success during games held at Weston.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (11) June 24, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses his midterm examinations and his decision to stay at Trinity College for another year.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (12) September 4, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses his athletic activities and how he thinks Ned would feel about Trinity.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (13) October 9, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses Ned's Examinations and the upcoming races for both of them.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (14) October 26, 1866

In this letter Osler discusses Ned's school life and his impending athletic success at the upcoming games.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (15) January 20, 1867

In this letter Osler discusses his Christmas holiday activities and inquires about Ned's holiday.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (16) April 04, 1867

In this letter Osler discusses his plans for Easter break.

Ned Milburn

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

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