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School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
Media contact: Gary Stephenson
May 31, 2005
AFTER A CENTURY APART, CHAIR AND DESK OF LEGENDARY HOPKINS PHYSICIAN, SIR WILLIAM OSLER, TO BE REUNITED
On Wednesday, June 1, at 1 p.m., Hopkins archivists will carefully transport the chair from its current location to the Osler Textbook Room. (Sir William’s ghost is expected as well, although he will not be available for interviews.) Media are invited to attend this light historical moment in Hopkins’ history.
The desk at which one of the most influential medical textbooks ever published was written - and the companion office chair in which the book’s author often sat - are to be reunited after a century apart.
Sir William Osler, arguably the greatest physician of his time and, perhaps, all time, was one of the original four physicians of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He revolutionized medical education and literally wrote the book on medicine: The Principles and Practice of Medicine, first published in 1892. It remained the standard text on clinical medicine for the next 40 years
When Osler moved to Oxford University to accept the Regius Professorship of Medicine in 1905, he left behind at Hopkins a number of historical treasures, including the famous desk where he wrote his classic medical textbook. It is seen in Thomas Corner’s well-known portrait of Osler now hanging at Hopkins. Osler also left behind the chair he often used in his office. When Osler left Hopkins, he gave his desk to Julius Friedenwald, M.D., noted Hopkins gastroenterologist, who later bequeathed it to Hopkins where it is on display in the recently renovated Osler Textbook Room (the room where the famed text was written) in the domed Billings Administration Building. Osler’s chair has a more circuitous history. He left it to Henry Thomas Sr., M.D., father-in-law of Caroline Bedell Thomas, M.D., originator of the so-called Precursors Study. This study, began in 1946 and still ongoing, follows the health and lives of 1,300 Hopkins Medical School students. Caroline Thomas later loaned the Osler chair to the Precursors Study Program, most recently directed by Michael Klag, M.D., M.P.H., vice dean for clinical investigation and David M. Levine Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who will become new dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in September.
Now, exactly 100 years later, thanks to the generosity of the Thomas family and efforts by Drs. Victor McKusick, Stephen Achuff and Michael Klag as well as Hopkins archivists, the Osler chair will return to its first home -- near the Osler desk and other Osler memorabilia in the Osler Textbook Room at Hopkins Hospital.
Recruited to Hopkins in 1888 to be physician-in-chief of the soon-to-be-opened Hopkins Hospital, Osler’s belief that clinical instruction should begin and end with the patient and his insistence that medical students learn best at the patient’s bedside, created the model for academic medical centers that continues today.
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