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William Osler Letters Collection Guide: The Johns Hopkins 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 with Ramsey Wright, taken while he was a Physician in Chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1890

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

The Johns Hopkins Years

The letters written during these years cover much change in Osler's life and medical career, including a move to Philadelphia in 1884 for a faculty position at the University of Philadelphia, where he would remain until 1889. In 1889, the Johns Hopkins Medical School opened and Osler became the first head of the Department of Medicine. According to A Continual Remembrance, "It was in this setting that he began the most productive and fruitful period in his remarkable career" (62). At Hopkins, he rose in prominence and started a clinical program which integrated clinical experience with medical lectures to provide a fuller medical degree and hands-on experience for medical students.

While at Hopkins, due to his reputation, Osler began treating a large number of patients, and this volume of patient care would continue throughout his medical career. In several letters, Osler updates Ned on the ongoing medical treatment of Mr. Benjamin, a patient who Ned had referred to him.

Also, during his time at Hopkins, he met Grace Revere Gross and they were married on May 7, 1892. She is mentioned in many of his letters, and was involved in many of his medical decisions.

Letters 17-31 (1884-1905)

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (17) Undated, 1884

In this letter Osler discusses his move to Philadelphia. He also inquires about Ned's injured leg.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (18) February 02, 1896

In this letter Osler discusses getting close to being 50 years old. He also tells Ned of his new-born son, and the loss of his first child at a week old.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (19) February 21, 1899

In this letter Osler discusses seeing a patient named Mr. Benjamin that Ned referred to him. He also mentions his frequent visits to Toronto and hopes that he can visit Ned while there.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (20) February 27, 1899

In this letter Osler discusses the patient that Ned referred to him and his ailments.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (21) September 9, 1904

In this letter Osler discusses the news that Ned's son was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and gives his medical advice on the case.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (22) undated, [1904]

In this letter Osler continues to advise Ned on his son's case of tuberculosis, and suggests they try and keep him in a private home until he recovers.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (23) September 17, 1904

In this letter Osler continues to advise Ned on his son's battle with tuberculosis. He reassures Ned that enough morphine will help with the bad cough and that he should inhale creosote to help it as well.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (24) October 5, 1904

In this letter Osler continues to advise Ned on his son's medical care. He suggests cool spongings and morphine to reduce the fever.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (25) October 11, 1904

In this letter Osler discusses Ned's son and his ongoing battle with tuberculosis. He stresses the importance of confining the sputum [sputum is saliva that is produced by a lung infection] to a handkerchief or towel.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (26) November 4, 1904

In this letter Osler sympathizes with Ned over the loss of his son to tuberculosis. He reassures Ned that it is better for him to go quickly than for the disease to linger over several years.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (27) December 31, 1904

In this letter he discusses his holiday plans and upcoming travels to Toronto.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (28) February 28, 1905

In this letter Osler discusses some trouble he is having with the newspapers over a chloroform joke he made.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (29) April 18, 1905

In this letter Osler mentions a brief visit to Toronto and his upcoming travels.

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (30) June 13, 1905

In this letter Osler tells Ned about his recent move to Oxford and settling down into a "quiet academic life."

William Osler letter to Ned Milburn, (31) November 11, 1905

In this letter Osler talks about his time in Oxford. He also mentions Ned's brother and his bad health.

William and Grace Osler, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford in 1894.

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

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