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William Osler: A Life in Medicine [Hardcover]

Michael Bliss
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 15 2000

In his time the most famous physician in the world, Canadian-born William Osler (1849-1919) is still the best-known figure in the history of medicine. This new, definitive biography by Michael Bliss is the first full-scale life of Osler to appear since 1925. An award-winning medical historian, Bliss draws on many untapped sources to recreate Osler's life and medical times for a new generation of readers.

Born at Bond Head, north of Toronto, Osler rose from obscurity to become the greatest medical teacher and writer in three countries. At Canada's McGill University, America's Johns Hopkins University, and finally as regius professor at Oxford, Osler was idolized by two generations of medical students and practitioners, for whom he came to personify the ideal doctor. His quest was to bring high standards and scientific methods into general practice in the medical world and to give teaching hospitals a solid place in the education of doctors. The publication of his book, The Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892), established him as the authority of modern medicine, a position he held well into the new century.

Osler was revered as the high priest of the advent of twentieth-century medicine. In this fine biography, Michael Bliss animates the epic quality of Osler's life - not only in telling his personal story, but in setting that story against the dramatic backdrop of the coming of modern medicine.

Winner of the Jason A. Hannah Medal, awarded by the Royal Society of Canada and the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine

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From Library Journal

Medical historian Bliss (The Discovery of Insulin) has written the authoritative modern biography of 19th-century Canadian physician William Osler. Idolized by many as one of the greatest of all modern physicians, Osler emerges from this critical text as a brilliant, influential physician and teacher, full of compassion for his profession and patients. Bliss offers a glimpse of the rise of modern medicine and medical education as it unfolded around Osler and provides a view of the time as well as of the man. This volume replaces Harvey Cushing's two-volume tribute, The Life of Sir William Osler (1956), as the definitive text in the field. Highly recommended for history collections in all academic libraries and essential for medical collections.AEric D. Albright, Duke Medical Ctr. Lib., Durham, NC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Osler, a Canadian, became famous in the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, first in Canada, then in the U.S., and finally in England. In 1926, seven years after his death, neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing wrote a two-volume biography of him that won a Pulitzer Prize. Why, then, is another biography needed? First, Osler was a major player in the history of medicine as clinician, teacher, and literary and scientific author. Second, much new material has become available since the 1920s. Finally, Bliss proved himself with his biography of Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin, as well as other scholarly and readable books. He individuates Osler and his family members, colleagues, and patients, setting them all in enough, but not too much, social, medical, and political historical context. Thoroughly documented, this is a biography that is pleasurable to read and deserving of a place in virtually every public, college, and medical library. William Beatty --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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William Osler was born in a parsonage in backwoods Canada on July 12, 1849. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely delightful! Feb. 1 2001
Any attempt to describe the life of such an illustrious personage, as one could imagine must be a rather daunting task. However, Michael Bliss's smooth-flowing rendering of Dr. William Osler's life is made not only manageable, but a sheer joy to read.
Of course this book will be compared with the innumerable number of other writings about William Osler, most notably of course the Cushing version. And Bliss clearly acknowledges the plethora of carefully collected documentations and personal correspondences that Cushing had accumulated in crafting his tale. However, I think this book stands on its own as a unique rendering of Osler mainly because of one simple fact. Bliss has had the luxury of time on his side to not just document the time and lives and the state of Medicine in the late 19th century, but most importantly, he relates it to the current, modern day state of affairs in those areas as well. He has woven a story that encompasses through the life of the great Osler, the tremendous influences of 19th medicine on modern day medicine. Even if one is not in the health-related professions or the biomedical sciences, one cannot miss the fact that this is a book as much about humanism as it is about medicine.
Biography, like history is riddled with biases, especially if it is about people and events that have revolutionazied mankind. This is particularly so in regards to William Osler, whose life and work have been immortalized, and a man who had acheived a legendary status even during his own life time. Bliss's work is as unbiased as it could possibly be given the already intrinsic biases about his subject. In this sense, this book is also unique from the previous biographies of Osler.
Overall, this is a most enjoyable read. This is definitely a "page-flipper" that takes you into the life, struggles, and triumps not only of Osler, but in a sense, of the entire human race.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book! Aug. 5 2000
I was not an unbiased reader when I picked this up -a graduating medical student about to begin a medical residency. There is a minimum of technical medicine in this biography -it reads more like a novel, filled with Osler's own writing. Bliss poured through his technical papers, his speaches, letters and medical jokes (published under the pseudoname Eagerton Y Davis) and gives us a taste of what an incredible man he must have been. Full of energy, a mind constantly at work, yet a tender-hearted soul who was a pioneer in the art of medicine, of making the doctor-patient relationship warm and empathetic in an era when this was unpopular. Bliss reveals that this is a person we should remember and who's example we all should take to heart: diligent work, a positive attitude, and concern for humanity made manifest each day in one's daily living. Read this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AT THE HEART OF MEDICINE March 27 2000
One of the most engaging and delightful biographies I have ever read - and whose subject is an absolutely fascinating human being. The interest is everywhere and of every kind: characterological, institutional, international, scientific, medical, historical, social, philosophical, economic, pedagogic, literary, ethical, humorous, tragic, heroic, inspirational.
The effect of the book is uplifting, challenging, instructive, buoying, rivetting; it is almost impossible to put it down, and when one does one's mood is deep, absent reflection.
There is a profound lesson in "William Osler: A Life in Medicine" for our own era and its bizarre and pitiful oblivion of all that really lies at the heart of medicine: suffering, character, judgment, courage, conscience, compassion, ignorance, and you and I.
Not process control, impersonal abstraction, colossalism, profiteering, niggardliness, or cosmetic morality.
- Patrick Gunkel
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