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  • Stalwart GiantsMedical Cosmopolitanism, Canadian Authorship, and American Publishers
  • Jennifer J. Connor (bio)

“Nationalism,” declared Dr. William Osler in 1902, “has been the great curse of humanity.” For this internationally revered Canadian physician, the profession of medicine transcends borders: it is a “sort of guild or brotherhood, any member of which can take up his calling in any part of the world” and can find identical language and methods. Philadelphia-based Lea Brothers, publisher of Osler’s 1907 edited collection, Modern Medicine, echoed his many statements on this theme: “A new era has come in medicine, the age of cosmopolitanism,” they wrote in a preface. “As in finance and trade, the world has become a single country.”1 Indeed, medical book publishing itself had long—perhaps always—targeted a borderless market. At the same time, however, American medical publishers clearly dominated the market by the late nineteenth century. For, as the prominent medical editor Dr. George M. Gould observed in 1897, although “science is cosmopolitan; medicine is most patriotic when least selfish; we know naught of geographic limits or national boundary lines; [and] our colleagues over sea are our brethren none the less because miles of water lie between us,” American books raised nevertheless “a pardonable patriotism in which we may indulge.” Of all the methods to counter a reported condescension among “foreigners” toward the American medical profession, Gould asked, “what one is more effective than the creation of a good book?”: “Now I think no one will deny the assertion that we Americans have a marked superiority to some other nations in the art of scientific and artistic book-making. Every book of superior professional and typographic excellence we send across the water raises us as a profession and as a nation in the eyes of our transatlantic colleagues.”2

This superiority of production, and a lucrative specialized trade in medical books, in fact made American medical publishers attractive to authors. Philadelphia was the main center for this trade, and as will be discussed [End Page 209] here, it was central not just for the United States, but for the North American continent. Anglo-Canadian physicians, trained in elite British and Canadian medical schools (which, unlike the situation in the United States, generally were university-based or -affiliated from their establishment in the early nineteenth century), gravitated to the northeast part of the United States to lead and participate in the new research culture in medicine at the end of the nineteenth century. The medical profession then was mobilizing: professionalizing, specializing, researching, writing, publishing, and organizing libraries. The most significant Canadian expatriate was Dr. (later Sir) William Osler, who in 1893 helped to found what was to become the model for medical schools at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and who would move on to Oxford in 1905, exemplifying the cosmopolitan physician in the Anglo-American world par excellence. Consequently, although Osler publicly decried nationalism, he and his fellow Canadian expatriate authors knew well that a large Canadian influence was exerted on American medical publishers, and they quietly applauded it.

Publishers knew it well, too. “The United States is often said to be a chauvinist country,” observed a centennial history of the (Philadelphia-based) publisher, Saunders Company,

but in its use of textbooks in the basic medical sciences it has been above all else eclectic. For many years the Grant Atlas of Anatomy, the Best and Taylor Physiology, and Boyd’s Pathology, all by Canadian authors, were stalwart giants that every publisher wanted to topple from their lofty place, but none could. There are other Canadian texts too of profound influence on medicine everywhere, and Saunders has had the good fortune to publish more than its fair share of them. They include the Fraser and Paré Diagnosis of Diseases of the Chest, the Thompson and Thompson Medical Genetics, the Leeson and Leeson Histology, Bates, Macklem and Christie on Respiratory Function in Disease, the Cherniack and Cherniack Respiration in Health and Disease and Moore’s The Developing Human.3

These connections between Canadian authors and American publishers thus invite fuller investigation, not just to understand contemporary notions of nationalism and continentalism, but also to shed new light on the...


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pp. 209-239
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