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Sir William Osler Collection

Sir William Osler Collection

Physical Description

3.8 m of textual records. -- photographs.



Biographical Sketch / Administrative History

A major figure in modern medical history, Sir William Osler is well known as a scientific researcher, a great medical pedagogue, a humanist, and an advocate for a patient-centered approach to medicine.

Born in Bond Head, Ontario in 1849, Osler earned his medical degree at McGill University, and later taught at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine from 1874 until 1884. Osler then joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he was appointed Chair of Clinical Medicine, before becoming Physician-in-Chief and one of the “Big Four” founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital and medical school in Baltimore – the first school of its kind to train medical students in a modern residency program. Osler finished his career as Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, where he was also able to devote time to his passion for book collecting. His library of nearly eight thousand rare and historic works of the history of medicine and science is known as the Bibliotheca Osleriana, documented by a published catalogue of the same title.

Sir William Osler was knighted in 1911 in recognition to his contributions to medical science and teaching. His library of 7600 volumes on the history of medicine and science bequeathed to McGill University forms the nucleus of the present Osler Library of the History of Medicine. His life and contributions to medicine are described in detail in the Pulitzer-Prize winning biography Life of Sir William Osler (London: Oxford University Press, 1925) by Harvey Cushing.

Scope and Content

The Sir William Osler Collection, distinct from the Bibliotheca, is an extensive archival holding of Osler’s correspondence (including eighteen hundred original letters), daybooks, accounts, engagement books, legal documents, book invoices, membership certificates, notebooks, lectures, addresses, newspaper clippings, photographs, books with manuscript additions, and miscellaneous loose items formerly inserted into individual books in his library. The collection also contains various family papers, including the correspondence of Lady Grace Revere Osler.

Finding Aids

Inventory list is available.

Custodial History

Old accession number 326 (+ 153, 305 for addenda). New accession number 2016-001 added in August 2016 after a donation of letters from Lawton Osler in February 2016


The documents are in English.

Source of Supplied Title Proper

Based on the documents in the collection.

Retrieval Number




McGill University - History
McGill University Doctors
Osler, Grace Revere
Osler, Sir William - Friends or Relations
Osler, Sir William, 1849-1919
Student Notes