The Contributions of William Osler

Chronology of Osler's Life

Early Life  |  Medical Education  |  Montreal  |  Philadelphia
Baltimore  |  Oxford    |  Sources


Early Life
Born on July 12 at the parsonage in Bond Head, Tecumseh County, Upper Canada (after 1864, the province of Ontario) to the Rev. Featherstone Lake Osler and Ellen Free Pickton Osler. William was the sixth son and eighth child of nine.
Osler family moved to Dundas, Ontario.
1857-1864 Student at local grammar school in Dundas.
1864 Expelled from grammar school.
1864-1865 Boarder at grammar school of the Rev. W. F. Checkley, in Barrie, Ontario.

Student at Trinity College School, Weston, Ontario, where he met his mentors, Rev. William Arthur Johnson and James Bovell, M.D.

1867-1868 Student at Trinity College, Toronto, in preparation for career as a minister.

Medical Education

1868-1870 Student at Toronto School of Medicine.
1869 First publication, "Christmas and the Microscope," Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, (London), Feb. 1, no. 50, p. 44.
1870 First scientific publication, "Canadian diatomaceae," Canadian Naturalist & Quarterly Journal of Science, 1870-71, N.S. 5: 142-151.
1870-1872 Student at McGill Medical School, Montreal, where he studied with Palmer Howard, M.D., the third dedicatee, with Johnson and Bovell, of his Principles and Practice.
1871 First clinical publication, "Carcinoma mammae: Removal by Excision,"  Canadian Medical Journal, 1871, 8: 107-109.
Received M.D., McGill Medical School. Awarded a special prize for his thesis on pathological anatomy, which was never published and which now survives only in fragments.
1872-1874 Traveled and studied in Europe.
1873 Began research on blood platelets.
1874 Returned to Canada to work as a general practitioner in Dundas and Hamilton for a few weeks in the summer.

1874 - 1884

Lecturer on the Institutes of Medicine, McGill University.
Joins Medico-Chirurgical Society of Montreal.
1875-1884 Professor of the Institutes of Medicine, McGill University.
1875 Attending Physician, smallpox wards, Montreal General Hospital.
1876? Professor of Physiology, Montreal Veterinary College.
1876-1884 Pathologist, Montreal General Hospital (appointed May 1, 1876).
1877-1884 Registrar, School of Medicine, McGill University.
1877-1878 Editor, Transactions of the Canadian Medical Association.
1878 Published Montreal General Hospital Pathological Reports.
1878 Passed examination for membership in the Royal College of Physicians, London.
1878-1884 Physician to Montreal General Hospital.
1881 Elected General Secretary, Canadian Medical Association.
1883 Elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London.
1884 Elected President of the Canadian Medical Association.

1884 - 1889

1884-1889 Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
1885 Gulstonian Lectures "On Malignant Endocarditis," Royal College of Physicians, London (Published: British   Medical Journal, 1885, 1: 467-70, 522-526, 577-579).
1885 Elected a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
1885 Elected member of the Philadelphia Pathological Society on March 12.
1885 Appointed visiting physician, Philadelphia General Hospital [Blockley].
1885 Founding member of the Association of American Physicians.
1886 Cartwright Lectures "On Certain Problems in the Physiology of the Blood Corpuscles," delivered before the Association of the Alumni of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, in March (Published: Medical News (NY), 1886, 48: 365-370, 393-399, 420-425).
1887 Appointed physician to the Philadelphia Orthopedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases.

1889 - 1905

Physician-in-Chief, The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Published The Principles and Practice of Medicine: Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1892.
1892-1893 President of the American Pediatric Society.
1892 Married Grace Revere of Boston, widow of Samuel W. Gross, M.D., of  Philadelphia, on May 7.
1893 Son born, but lived less than a week in February.
1893-1905 Professor of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
1895 Awarded LL.D by McGill University on April 30.
1895 Son, Edward Revere Osler born on December 28.
1895 President, Association of American Medical Colleges.
1895 President, Association of American Physicians.
1895 Described the visceral complications of erythema multiforme.
Founding member, Association of Medical Librarians, May 2.
1898 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on June 6.
1898 Awarded LL.D. by Aberdeen University, Scotland, on July 21.
1898 Awarded LL.D. by Edinburgh University, Scotland, in July.
1898-1899 Dean of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
1899 Cavendish Lecture, "On the Etiology and Diagnosis of Cerebrospinal Fever," West London Medico-Chirurgical Society, June 16 (Published: West London Medical Journal, 4: 145-188).
1899 Awarded LL.D. by the University of Toronto, June 10.
1901 United States representative, British Congress on Tuberculosis, July.
1901 Described a form of multiple telangiectasis.
1901 Awarded LL.D. by the Yale University, October.
President, Association of Medical Librarians.


1902 Awarded D.C.L. by University of Trinity College, Toronto.
1903 Described chronic cyanosis with polycythemia and enlarged spleen.
Elected Vice-President and Chairman of the International Committee of the United States Society for the Study of Tuberculosis, March 28.
Ingersoll Lecture, "Science and Immortality," Harvard University, May. (Published: Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1904).
1904 Awarded L.L.D. by Harvard University on June 29.
1904 Awarded D.S. by Oxford University on July 27.
Awarded an L.L.D. by Johns Hopkins University on February 22.
Valedictory address, "The Fixed Period," The Johns Hopkins University, Feb. 22, caused uproar in the popular press. which accused Osler of proposing that all men over sixty are useless and should be chloroformed to death.
1905 Founding member, Interurban Clinical Club, April 28.

1905 - 1919

1905-1919 Regius Professor of Medicine, Oxford University.
1905 Awarded D.M. by Oxford University on June 13.
1905 In London, John Singer Sargent completed the portrait of "The Four Doctors" (Kelly, Halsted, Osler, Welch) commissioned by Miss Mary Elizabeth Garrett for The Johns Hopkins University.
1905 Thomas Young lecturer in Medicine, St. George’s Hospital, London.
1905 Appointed a Delegate to the Oxford University Press.
1905 Consultant to the Radcliffe Infirmary where he initiated informal Sunday morning post-graduate clinics there.
1905-1908 Member of the Hebdomadal Council, governing body of Oxford University.
1906 Elected to membership of the Bibliographical Society, London, on March 19.
1906 Appointed member of the Royal Commission on Vivisection.
Harveian Oration, "The Growth of Truth as Illustrated in the Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood," Royal College of Physicians, London, on October 18 (Published: London: H. Frowde, 1906).
1908 Linacre Lecture, St. John’s College, Cambridge University, on May 6.
1908 Unsuccessful candidate in the election for the Lord Rectorship of the University of Edinburgh.
1908 Described erythematous swellings in malignant endocarditis (Osler’s spots).
1909 Schorstein Lecture, London Hospital, on October 15.
1910 Lumleian Lectures "On Angina Pectoris," Royal College of Physicians, London in March. (Published: Lancet, 1910, 1: 697-702, 839-844, 973-977).
1910 Awarded D.Sc. by Leeds University in June.
1911 Awarded M.D. by University of Christiana, Sweden, in September.
1911 Baronetcy conferred.
1911 Elected President of the Clinical Section, Royal Society of Medicine.
1912 Awarded D. Sc. by Trinity College, Dublin, on July 6.
1912 Awarded an D.L.C. by Durham University on December 17.
1913 Founder and first President of the Historical Section, Royal Society of Medicine.
1913 Lectures on the Silliman Foundation, Yale University, "The Evolution of Modern Medicine," delivered in April (Published: New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921).
1913-1919 President of the Bibliographical Society, London.
1913 President of the Medical Section, XVIIth International Medical Congress, London, August 6-12.
Resigned for a few days in April from the Royal College of Physicians over their response to the unauthorized use of his name publicizing a popular medical book.
1914 Awarded Sc.D. by Cambridge University on June 9.
1914 Nominated, but declined presidency of the Royal Society of Medicine.
1914 Elected to the Roxburghe Club.
Appointed to the Royal Commission on University Education in Wales.
1916 Resigned as Consultant to the hospitals of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
1917 Lt. Edward Revere Osler, RFA, died in Flanders on August 30.
1919 President of the Inter-Allied Fellowship of Medicine, January 9.
1919 President, Ashmolean Natural History Society.
Presidential speech, "The Old Humanities and the New Science," Classical Association, Oxford, May 16. (Published: Classical Association Proceedings, 1919.)
Publication of Contributions to Medical and Biological Research Dedicated to Sir William Osler in Honour of his Seventieth Birthday . . . by his Pupils and Co-Workers.
1919 Died on December 29.


Chesney, Alan M. The Johns Hopkins Hospital and The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: A Chronicle. 3 vols. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1963.
Cushing, Harvey. The Life of Sir William Osler. London: Oxford University Press, 1940.

"Sir William Osler," Medical Classics, 1939, 4: 175-176.

Sir William Osler: An Annotated Bibliography with Illustrations
. Edited by Richard L. Golden and Charles G. Roland. San Francisco: Norman Publishing, 1988.

"Sir William Osler Memorial Number," Bulletin of the International Association of Medical Museums and Journal of Technical Methods, 1926, No. 9.

"Sir William Osler’s Autobiographical Notes," Edited by Edward H. Bensley and Donald G. Bates, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1976, 50: 596-618.



Osler's Successors at Johns Hopkins and Oxford 
(Courtesy of Victor A. McKusick)

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