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Green Templeton College | Oxford

Osler 2


William Osler and his Legacy to Medicine is a new illustrated book by Professor David Cranston, governing body fellow of GTC and joint curator of Osler’s house at 13 Norham Gardens, owned by GTC. He has just been appointed as Senior Consultant for the newly formed Chinese Osler Society.

In his foreword to the book Professor Sir John Bell, the current Regius Professor of Medicine writes:

'William Osler came to Oxford as the Regius Professor of Medicine in 1905, from The Johns Hopkins, arriving at a stage when the structures in the medical school were very different to what they are now. As Regius, his main role would have been in teaching and in observational clinical research, at which he excelled. He personified the changes of medicine from being simply what one perceived, to a more rigorous scientific framework, linking observations with a better understanding of the pathophysiology of disease, thus allowing him to define diseases in a way that no one had done before. The momentum that has led to the growth of biomedical sciences in Oxford can be traced back to the very substantial effect Osler had in drawing attention to Oxford as a place where outstanding clinical practice and clinical science could occur together.'

Osler was not only outstanding clinician and a great teacher, but he had numerous other great skills beside his clinical and teaching for he was very kind to his patients, and promoted the interface of science with the art of medicine, something that has often been lost since. However I think that today there is a new recognition that there is more to the practice of medicine than simply getting the right drug to the right patient. Today many of the problems are social, relating to the softer sides of medicine, and so it continues to be a central component of clinical practice to be able to talk to patients in a way which is humane and sensitive to their emotional and social needs. Osler was spectacular at that, and it is the renaissance of this aspect of Oslerian medicine that which could potentially be very exciting if it occurred over the next 10 years.

This book is a timely reminder of the legacy that Osler left to medicine, in terms of his life, his writing, his quotes, and his attitude to his patients and colleagues. The medical writings may have been superseded by further research but most of his quotes are as true today as when he uttered them, and as we approach the 100th anniversary of Osler’s death, it is pertinent to be reminded of that wisdom, and celebrations are planned for that event in 2019.