Sir William Osler (1849-1919)

“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

“We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from life.”

“He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.”

“There is no more difficult art to acquire than the art of observation, and for some men it is quite as difficult to record an observation in brief and plain language.”

“The young physician starts life with 20 drugs for each disease, and the old physician ends life with one drug for 20 diseases.”

“Courage and cheerfulness will not only carry you over the rough places in life, but will enable you to bring comfort and help to the weak-hearted and will console you in the sad hours.”

“One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.”

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.”

“The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head. Often the best part of your work will have nothing to do with potions and powders, but with the exercise of an influence of the strong upon the weak, of the righteous upon the wicked, of the wise upon the foolish.”

“Observe, record, tabulate, communicate. Use your five senses. . . . Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell, and know that by practice alone you can become expert.”

“The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.”

“The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.”

“The future is today.”

“Medicine is learned by the bedside and not in the classroom. Let not your conceptions of disease come from words heard in the lecture room or read from the book. See, and then reason and compare and control. But see first.”

“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self-satisfaction”

“It is much simpler to buy books than to read them and easier to read them than to absorb their contents.”

“Care more for the individual patient than for the special features of the disease. . . . Put yourself in his place . . . The kindly word, the cheerful greeting, the sympathetic look — these the patient understands.”

“Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day absorb all your interest, energy and enthusiasm. The best preparation for tomorrow is to live today superbly well.”

“Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought.”

“The librarian of today, and it will be true still more of the librarians of tomorrow, are not fiery dragons interposed between the people and the books. They are useful public servants, who manage libraries in the interest of the public . . . Many still think that a great reader, or a writer of books, will make an excellent librarian. This is pure fallacy.”

“The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism”

“Throw away all ambition beyond that of doing the day’s work well. The travelers on the road to success live in the present, heedless of taking thought for the morrow. Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your wildest ambition.”

“The search for static security – in the law and elsewhere – is misguided. The fact is security can only be achieved through constant change, adapting old ideas that have outlived their usefulness to current facts.”

“Work is the open sesame of every portal, the great equalizer in the world, the true philosopher’s stone which transmutes all the base metal of humanity into gold.”

“For the general practitioner a well-used library is one of the few correctives of the premature senility which is so apt to take him.”

“No bubble is so iridescent or floats longer than that blown by the successful teacher.”

“There is no disease more conducive to clinical humility than aneurysm of the aorta.”

“The very first step towards success in any occupation is to become interested in it.”

“What is the student but a lover courting a fickle mistress who ever eludes his grasp?”

“There is a form of laughter that springs from the heart, heard every day in the merry voice of childhood, the expression of a laughter — loving spirit that defies analysis by the philosopher, which has nothing rigid or mechanical in it, and totally without social significance. Bubbling spontaneously from the heart of child or man.”

“Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants.”

“No dreams, no visions, no delicious fantasies, no castles in the air, with which, as the old song so truly says, “hearts are broken, heads are turned”.”

“In seeking absolute truth we aim at the unattainable and must be content with broken portions.”

“Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaint.”

“No human being is constituted to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; and even the best of men must be content with fragments, with partial glimpses, never the full fruition”

“There are, in truth, no specialties in medicine, since to know fully many of the most important diseases a man must be familiar with their manifestations in many organs.”

“The desire to take medicine is perhaps the greatest feature which distinguishes man from animals.”

“Study until 25, investigate until 40, profession until 60, at which age I would have him retired on a double allowance.”

“The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of yesterday has become the wisdom of tomorrow.”

“To have a group of cloistered clinicians away completely from the broad current of professional life would be bad for teacher and worse for student. The primary work of a professor of medicine in a medical school is in the wards, teaching his pupils how to deal with patients and their diseases.”

“Take the sum of human achievement in action, in science, in art, in literature — subtract the work of the men above forty, and while we should miss great treasurers, even priceless treasures, we would practically be where we are today. . . . The effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of twenty-five and forty.”

“The higher education so much needed today is not given in the school, is not to be bought in the market place, but it has to be wrought out in each one of us for himself; it is the silent influence of character on character.”

“A library represents the mind of its collector, his fancies and foibles, his strength and weakness, his prejudices and preferences. Particularly is this the case if, to the character of a collector, he adds — or tries to add — the qualities of a student who wishes to know the books and the lives of the men who wrote them. The friendships of his life, the phases of his growth, the vagaries of his mind, all are represented.”

“Varicose veins are the result of an improper selection of grandparents.”

“Nothing in life is more wonderful than faith – the one great moving force which we can neither weigh in the balance nor test in the crucible”

“Advice is sought to confirm a position already taken.”

“Start at once a bedside library and spend the last half hour of the day in communion with the saints of humanity.”

“We are constantly misled by the ease with which our minds fall into the ruts of one or two experiences”

“To it, more than to anything else, I owe whatever success I have had — to this power of settling down to the day’s work and trying to do it to the best of one’s ability, and letting the future take care of itself.”

“Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition. It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day’s work.”

“Perhaps no sin so easily besets us as a sense of self-satisfied superiority to others.”

“The successful teacher is no longer on a height, pumping knowledge at high pressure into passive receptacles.”

“To confess ignorance is often wiser than to beat about the bush with a hypothetical diagnosis.”

“Taking a lady’s hand gives her confidence in her physician.”

“Without egotism and full of feeling, laughter is the music of life.”

“Variability is the law of life, and as no two faces are the same, so no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike and behave alike under the abnormal conditions which we know as disease.”

“The higher the standard of education in a profession, the less marked will be the charlatanism.”

“The natural man has only two primal passions, to get and to beget”

“In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.”

“Shut out all of your past except that which will help you weather your tomorrows.”

“A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

“It is not the delicate neurotic person who is prone to angina, but the robust, the vigorous in mind and body, the keen and ambitious man, the indicator of whose engines is always at “full speed ahead.””

“Too many men slip early out of the habit of studious reading, and yet that is essential.”

“Half of us are blind, few of us feel, and we are all deaf.”

“Save the fleeting minute; learn gracefully to dodge the bore.”

“When schemes are laid in advance, it is surprising how often the circumstances fit in with them”

“It is strange how the memory of a man may float to posterity on what he would have himself regarded as the most trifling of his works.”

“The great minds, the great works transcend all limitations of time, of language, and of race, and the scholar can never feel initiated into the company of the elect until he can approach all of life’s problems from the cosmopolitan standpoint.”

“Nothing in life is more wonderful than faith.”

“There are no straight backs, no symmetrical faces, many wry noses, and no even legs. We are a crooked and perverse generation.”

“There are only two sorts of doctors: those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.”

“To know what has to be done, then do it, comprises the whole philosophy of practical life.”

 

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