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OSLER'S PROFESSORSHIPS AND HIS FAMILIES GEORGE T. HARRELL* Original Family William Osier was the youngest boy of nine children in a close-knit family living on the wild frontier of Canada. His father was an Anglican missionary with an income barely above the poverty level [I]. His brothers became successful in law, business, and finance. All, including William, are said to have been interested in money and did not wish to repeat the privations of their early childhood. William's education pointed him first toward the ministry. He was introduced then to classical literature. During his early schooling, he had discovered the microscopic biology of freshwater ponds. This fascination later changed his career to medicine, but his love of classical books continued a consuming passion all his life. It culminated in the Bibliotheca Osleriana now in Montreal. The purchase of books regularly took a portion of his income, even when it was very small. He repeatedly received aid from a brother to purchase books. His family kept in touch, and all were very supportive over the years in his academic and family activities through letters and visits. His father, later in a pastorate near Toronto, regularly sent money to supplement the lack of salary during his early teaching appointments. His mother urged him over the years to marry a nice wife who would "attend to little home comforts for him." Surrogate Family At age 17 while still a schoolboy, Osier met two cousins, Marian and Jennette Osier. When he came to Montreal as a medical student, he began a close association with them which continued over many years. Marian had married G. G. Francis, whom Osier called "Beelzebub." When Osier was 22, Marian made him godfather to a daughter. After This paper was delivered at the Osier Revisited Conference, Merton College, Oxford, England, September 25, 1984. *Address: 2010 Eastridge Road, Timonium, Maryland 21093.© 1985 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 003 1 -5982/86/290 1 -0448$0 1 .00 76 I George T. Harrell ¦ Osier graduation and a tour of European hospitals, he returned in August, 1874, to Montreal, penniless at age 25. He received his first academic appointment as a lecturer teaching physiology, histology, and pathology at the medical school. The next year he was made professor of the Institutes of Medicine at McGiIl. He did autopsies in local hospitals and simultaneously taught physiology in the veterinary school, where he was professor. He had no salary but received fees from students. He did essentially no practice, so his income was small [2]. He was immersed in his work, and it is not known whether he felt he could not afford marriage , or whether he had no interest in it at the time. He lived a spartan existence in very simple rented rooms. Immediately, he began to drop in at the home of Marian Francis to visit, regularly have tea, and often to have dinner, especially on Sundays. He was greatly attracted to Marian and her children. Jennette, who never married, lived in the home. She had great affection for Osier, called him her dearest friend, and helped him with his papers and lectures. In October 1875, Marian contracted typhoid. Osier stayed in the home and would be up with her all night. He had, over the years, lived at times in the house. He felt sufficiently a member ofthe family to arrange that an old mentor, Father Johnson, stay in the house on his visits to Montreal. In May 1877, Osier began his first bedside clinical teaching, his ultimate goal, though his appointment remained in the basic sciences. That summer his letters to Marian remarked that he wished she were there with him at the hotel where he was serving as house physician during his vacation. The next year William W. Francis was born. Marian named the boy for Osier and made him his godfather. During the school years in Montreal and in the summers as late as 1881 in southern Quebec he continued to visit and play with the children. From his earliest childhood , "Willie" adored Osier, who treated him as a son all his life. He called him his nephew, though he was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 76-87
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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