William Osler, fully Sir William Osler

Osler, fully Sir William Osler

Canadian Physician, Professor of Medicine, one of the "Big Four" founding professors at John Hopkins Hospital, First Professor of Medicine and Founder of Medical Services at John Hopkins Hospital

Author Quotes

Surrounded by people who demand certainty, ? and not philosopher enough to agree with Locke that "Probability supplies the defect of our knowledge and guides us when that fails, and is always conversant about things of which we have no certainty," the practitioner too often gets into a habit of mind which resents the thought that opinion, not full knowledge, must be his stay and prop. There is no discredit, though there is at times much discomfort, in this everlasting perhaps with which we have to preface so much connected with the practice of our art. It is, as I said, inherent in the subject.

The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism

The very first step towards success in any occupation is to become interested in it.

Though a little one, the master-word looms large in meaning. It is the open sesame to every portal, the great equalizer in the world, the true philosopher's stone, which transmutes all the base metal of humanity into gold. The stupid man among you it will make bright, the bright man brilliant, and the, brilliant student steady. With the magic word in your heart all things are possible, and without it all study is vanity and vexation. The miracles of life are with it; the blind see by touch, the deaf hear with eyes, the dumb speak with fingers. To the youth it brings hope, to the middle-aged confidence, to the aged repose. True balm of hurt minds, in its presence the heart of the sorrowful is lightened and consoled. It is directly responsible for all advances in medicine during the past twenty-five centuries. Laying hold upon it Hippocrates made observation and science the warp and woof of our art. Galen so read its meaning that fifteen centuries stopped thinking, and slept until awakened by the De Fabrica, of Vesalius, which is the very incarnation of the master-word. With its inspiration Harvey gave an impulse to a larger circulation than he wot of, an impulse which we feel to-day. Hunter sounded all its heights and depths, and stands out in our history as one of the great exemplars of its virtues With it Virchow smote the rock, and the waters of progress gushed out while in the hands of Pasteur it proved a very talisman to open to us a new heaven in medicine and a new earth in surgery. Not only has it been the touchstone of progress, but it is the measure of success in every-day life. Not a man before you but is beholden to it for his position here, while he who addresses you has that honor directly in consequence of having had it graven on his heart when he was as you are to-day. And the master-word is Work, a little one, as I have said, but fraught with momentous sequences if you can but write it on the tablets of your hearts and bind it upon your foreheads. But there is a serious difficulty in getting you to understand the paramount importance of the work-habit as part of your organization. You are not far from the Tom Sawyer stage with its philosophy "that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

We are constantly misled by the ease with which our minds fall into the ruts of one or two experiences

You are in this profession as a calling, not a business; as a calling which exacts from you at every turn self-sacrifice, devotion, love and tenderness to your fellow-men. Once you get down to a purely business level, your influence is gone and the true light of your life is dimmed. You must work in the missionary spirit, with a breadth of charity that raises you far above the petty jealousies of life.

Take the sum of human achievement in action, in science, in art, in literature?subtract the work of the men above forty, and while we should miss great treasures, even priceless treasures, we would practically be where we are today.... The effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of twenty-five and forty.

The higher education so much needed today is not given in the school, is not to be bought in the market place, but it has to be wrought out in each one of us for himself; it is the silent influence of character on character.

The young doctor should look about early for an avocation, a pastime, that will take him away from patients, pills, and potions . . . No [person] is really happy or safe without one, and it makes precious little difference what the outside interest may be ? botany, beetles or butterflies, roses, tulips, or irises, fishing mountaineering or antiquities ? anything will do so long as he straddles a hobby and rides it hard.

Though his philosophy finds nothing to support it, at least from the standpoint of Terence the scientific student should be ready to acknowledge the value of a belief in a hereafter as an asset in human life. In the presence of so many mysteries which have been unveiled, in the presence of so many yet unsolved, he cannot be dogmatic and deny the possibility of a future state; and however distressing such a negative attitude of mind to the Teresian, like Pyrrho, he will ask to be left, reserving his judgement, but still inquiring. He will recognize that amid the turbid ebb and flow of human misery, a belief in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come is the rock of safety to which many of the noblest of his fellows have clung; he will gratefully accept the incalculable comfort of such a belief to those sorrowing for precious friends hid in death's dateless night; he will acknowledge with gratitude and reverence the service to humanity of the great souls who have departed this life in a sure and certain hope but this is all. Whether across death's threshold we step from life to life, or whether we go whence we shall not return, even to the land of darkness, as darkness itself, he cannot tell.

We are here to add what we can to, not to get what we can from, Life.

Taking a lady?s hand gives her confidence in her physician.

The higher the standard of education in a profession, the less marked will be the charlatanism.

The young physician starts life with 20 drugs for each disease, and the old physician ends life with one drug for 20 diseases.

Throw away all ambition beyond that of doing the day?s work well. The travelers on the road to success live in the present, heedless of taking thought for the morrow. Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day?s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your wildest ambition.

We can best oppose any tendency to melancholy by an active life of unselfish devotion to others.

That man can interrogate as well as observe nature was a lesson slowly learned in his evolution.

The incessant concentration of thought upon one subject, however interesting, tethers a man's mind in a narrow field.

There are no straight backs, no symmetrical faces, many wry noses, and no even legs. We are a crooked and perverse generation.

To confess ignorance is often wiser than to beat about the bush with a hypothetical diagnosis.

We can only instill principles, put the student in the right path, give him method, teach him how to study, and early to discern between essentials and non-essentials.

The aim of a school should be to have these departments in the charge of men who have, first, enthusiasm that deep love of a subject, that desire to teach and extend it without which all instruction becomes cold and lifeless; secondly, a full personal knowledge of the branch taught; not a second-hand information derived from books, but the living experience derived from experimental and practical work in the best laboratories. ? Thirdly, men are required who have a sense of obligation, that feeling which impels a teacher to be also a contributor, and to add to the stores from which he so freely draws.

The librarian of today, and it will be true still more of the librarians of tomorrow, are not fiery dragons interposed between the people and the books. They are useful public servants, who manage libraries in the interest of the public . . . Many still think that a great reader, or a writer of books, will make an excellent librarian. This is pure fallacy.

There are only two sorts of doctors: those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.

To die daily, after the manner of St. Paul, ensures the resurrection of a new man, who makes each day the epitome of life.

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Canadian Physician, Professor of Medicine, one of the "Big Four" founding professors at John Hopkins Hospital, First Professor of Medicine and Founder of Medical Services at John Hopkins Hospital