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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Clyde Partin, MD,Department of Medicine, Director of Emory Special Diagnostic Services,Emory University School of Medicine, 1365 Clifton Rd., Atlanta GA 30322 (e-mail:wpart01@emory.edu)

The author acknowledges the research and editorial assistance of Penny Merle Black, PhD, Candler Professor Emeritus, Emory University; Charles Bryan, MD, University of South Carolina; Michael Lubin, MD, Emory University; and Sally Wolff-King, PhD, Emory University.



  • American Osler Society
  • Atlanta
  • Barker
  • H. L.
  • Lewellys
  • Mencken
  • Osler
  • South/Southern
  • William
  • barbecue
  • philological mystery

The Oslerian legacy in the Southern states


Journal Title:

Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings


Volume 32, Number 4


, Pages 538-543

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


In the pages of The Southern Medical Journal, in 1919, William Osler’s colleague Lewellys Barker published a piece entitled “Osler and the South.” Using glowing terms but with startling inaccuracy, Barker described Osler’s relationship with the South and Southerners. Essentially, the brief communication was a happy birthday letter. If Osler had any thoughts on the Civil War, Reconstruction, or the Southern agrarian mindset, he never wrote them down, and a paucity of published information is available to support Barker’s comments. Even though William Osler lived in Baltimore when he worked at Johns Hopkins, he was never particularly fond of that city. He rarely traveled further south. When Osler departed Baltimore for the Regius Professorship in England in 1905, H. L. Mencken eventually published an exquisitely written and fond remembrance of Osler. On several occasions when Osler did venture south, he left a momentous literary or academic footprint. He gave his famous address, “The Fevers of the South,” at the American Medical Association meeting in Atlanta in 1896. From this oratory comes the iconic and oft-quoted line: “Humanity has but three great enemies: fever, famine, and war; of these by far the greatest, by far the most terrible, is fever.” On another excursion, he and two colleagues traveled to the Dismal Swamp, in Old Comfort Point, Virginia. Osler’s fascination with Thomas Moore’s poem “The Lake of the Dismal Swamp” inspired the outing. During their lunch break, Osler composed a whimsical tale, intended for his son Revere, about the swamp. Osler wrote the story on blank pages in the back of a copy of The Anatomy of Melancholy. That particular volume came to rest in a library in Christ Church and, when discovered, the “added contents” were quite a philological mystery until a letter, written by T. B. Futcher, describing the visit to the swamp, illuminated the activities of that outing. Despite Osler’s limited travels in the South, he left an Oslerian legacy there.

Copyright information:

© 2019, © 2019 Baylor University Medical Center.

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