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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index O > Sir William Osler Quotes

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Sir William Osler
(12 Jul 1849 - 29 Dec 1919)

Canadian physician, medical educator and author whose clinical teaching, research and personality strongly influenced medical practice, including encouraging a warmer bedside manner between doctors and their patients. He wrote Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892), one of the most successful textbooks in medical history.


Science Quotes by Sir William Osler (15 quotes)

A desire to take medicine is, perhaps, the great feature which distinguishes man from other animals.
— Sir William Osler
'Recent Advances in Medicine', Science (1891), 17, 170.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (143)  |  Desire (46)  |  Distinction (19)  |  Feature (14)  |  Man (258)  |  Medicine (185)  |  Take (4)

At the outset do not be worried about this big question—Truth. It is a very simple matter if each one of you starts with the desire to get as much as possible. 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. In this unsatisfied quest the attitude of mind, the desire, the thirst—a thirst that from the soul must arise!—the fervent longing, are the be-all and the end-all.
— Sir William Osler
'The Student Life' (1905). In G. L. Keynes (ed.), Selected Writings of Sir William Osler (1951), 172.
Science quotes on:  |  Arise (5)  |  Attitude (16)  |  Constitution (12)  |  Contentment (8)  |  Desire (46)  |  Fragment (13)  |  Glimpse (3)  |  Human Being (16)  |  Longing (4)  |  Mind (272)  |  Outset (2)  |  Quest (7)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Soul (54)  |  Thirst (7)  |  Truth (450)

Even in populous districts, the practice of medicine is a lonely road which winds up-hill all the way and a man may easily go astray and never reach the Delectable Mountains unless he early finds those shepherd guides of whom Bunyan tells, Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere.
— Sir William Osler
In Aequanimitas (1906), 299.
Science quotes on:  |  Medicine (185)  |  Physician (172)

Fed on the dry husks of facts, the human heart has a hidden want which science cannot supply.
— Sir William Osler
Science and Immorality (1904), 76.
Science quotes on:  |  Dry (8)  |  Fact (325)  |  Feeding (5)  |  Hiding (5)  |  Husk (3)  |  Science (875)  |  Supply (15)  |  Want (32)

In the Mortality Bills, pneumonia is an easy second, to tuberculosis; indeed in many cities the death-rate is now higher and it has become, to use the phrase of Bunyan 'the captain of the men of death.'
— Sir William Osler
'Medicine in the Nineteenth Century' (1904). In Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 260.
Science quotes on:  |  Bill (8)  |  John Bunyan (2)  |  Captain (2)  |  City (12)  |  Death (183)  |  Ease (20)  |  Man (258)  |  Mortality (4)  |  Pneumonia (4)  |  Rate (11)  |  Second (8)  |  Tuberculosis (8)

Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought.
— Sir William Osler
William Bennett Bean (ed.), Sir William Osler: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings and Writings, No. 267 (1950), 126.
Science quotes on:  |  Concealment (7)  |  Look (32)  |  Nothing (89)  |  Say (10)  |  Speech (19)  |  Thought (170)  |  Wisdom (91)

Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.
— Sir William Osler
William Bennett Bean (ed.), Sir William Osler: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings and Writings, No. 265 (1950), 125.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (80)  |  Medicine (185)  |  Probability (56)  |  Uncertainty (25)

Now of the difficulties bound up with the public in which we doctors work, I hesitate to speak in a mixed audience. Common sense in matters medical is rare, and is usually in inverse ratio to the degree of education.
— Sir William Osler
'Teaching and Thinking' (1894). In Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 131.
Science quotes on:  |  Audience (5)  |  Binding (6)  |  Common Sense (34)  |  Degree (18)  |  Difficulty (76)  |  Doctor (54)  |  Education (177)  |  Hesitation (6)  |  Inverse (3)  |  Matter (135)  |  Medicine (185)  |  Mixed (2)  |  Public (35)  |  Rare (14)  |  Ratio (9)  |  Speaking (30)  |  Work (198)

Our bowels are outside of us—just a tucked-in portion.
— Sir William Osler
Bennett Bean (ed.), Sir William Osler: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings and Writings, No. 351 (1950), 145.
Science quotes on:  |  Bowel (3)  |  Outside (10)  |  Portion (6)

The extraordinary development of modern science may be her undoing. Specialism, now a necessity, has fragmented the specialities themselves in a way that makes the outlook hazardous. The workers lose all sense of proportion in a maze of minutiae.
— Sir William Osler
'The Old Humanities and the New Science' (1919). In G. L. Keynes (ed.), Selected Writings of Sir William Osler (1951), 27.
Science quotes on:  |  Development (122)  |  Extraordinary (18)  |  Fragment (13)  |  Hazard (7)  |  Loss (44)  |  Maze (6)  |  Necessity (78)  |  Outlook (8)  |  Proportion (24)  |  Science (875)  |  Specialty (6)  |  Undoing (2)  |  Worker (11)

The future belongs to Science. More and more she will control the destinies of the nations. Already she has them in her crucible and on her balances.
— Sir William Osler
In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur (1919), xvi.
Science quotes on:  |  Already (5)  |  Balance (24)  |  Belong (10)  |  Control (41)  |  Crucible (3)  |  Destiny (12)  |  Future (110)  |  Nation (47)  |  Science (875)

There are only two sorts of doctors: those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.
— Sir William Osler
In Aequanimitas, and Other Papers That Have Stood the Test of Time (1963), 74.
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (106)  |  Doctor (54)  |  Practice (26)  |  Sort (7)  |  Tongue (8)  |  Two (8)

There is no more potent antidote to the corroding influence of mammon than the presence in the community of a body of men devoted to science, living for investigation and caring nothing for the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
— Sir William Osler
In address at the University of Minnesota, "Teacher and Student" (1892) collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 29.
Science quotes on:  |  Antidote (3)  |  Care (37)  |  Community (27)  |  Corrosion (3)  |  Eye (67)  |  Influence (47)  |  Investigation (83)  |  Life (460)  |  Lust (3)  |  Mammon (2)  |  Men Of Science (90)  |  Nothing (89)  |  Potency (3)  |  Presence (10)  |  Pride (21)

Varicose veins are the result of an improper selection of grandparents.
Indicating that varicose veins are hereditary.
— Sir William Osler
In W. B. Bean, Sir William Osler: Aphorisms, 146. In Mark E. Silverman et al. (eds.), The Quotable Osler (2003), 127.

We are all dietetic sinners; only a small percent of what we eat nourishes us, the balance goes to waste and loss of energy .
— Sir William Osler
William Bennett Bean (ed.), Sir William Osler: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings and Writings, No. 191 (1950), 96.
Science quotes on:  |  Balance (24)  |  Diet (24)  |  Eating (13)  |  Energy (103)  |  Loss (44)  |  Nourishment (12)  |  Percentage (2)  |  Waste (31)



Quotes by others about Sir William Osler (1)

That ability to impart knowledge ... what does it consist of? ... a deep belief in the interest and importance of the thing taught, a concern about it amounting to a sort of passion. A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it and dreams it—this man can always teach it with success, no matter how little he knows of technical pedagogy. That is because there is enthusiasm in him, and because enthusiasm is almost as contagious as fear or the barber's itch. An enthusiast is willing to go to any trouble to impart the glad news bubbling within him. He thinks that it is important and valuable for to know; given the slightest glow of interest in a pupil to start with, he will fan that glow to a flame. No hollow formalism cripples him and slows him down. He drags his best pupils along as fast as they can go, and he is so full of the thing that he never tires of expounding its elements to the dullest.
This passion, so unordered and yet so potent, explains the capacity for teaching that one frequently observes in scientific men of high attainments in their specialties—for example, Huxley, Ostwald, Karl Ludwig, Virchow, Billroth, Jowett, William G. Sumner, Halsted and Osler—men who knew nothing whatever about the so-called science of pedagogy, and would have derided its alleged principles if they had heard them stated.
In Prejudices: third series (1922), 241-2.
For a longer excerpt, see H. L. Mencken on Teaching, Enthusiasm and Pedagogy.
Science quotes on:  |  Ability (37)  |  Attainment (23)  |  Barber (3)  |  Belief (139)  |  Theodor Billroth (2)  |  Concern (30)  |  Contagion (4)  |  Derision (2)  |  Dream (39)  |  Enthusiasm (20)  |  Fear (53)  |  Flame (13)  |  Formalism (4)  |  Glow (4)  |  William Stewart Halsted (2)  |  Thomas Henry Huxley (77)  |  Importance (106)  |  Interest (82)  |  Itch (4)  |  Benjamin Jowett (2)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig (3)  |  Men Of Science (90)  |  News (6)  |  Ostwald_Carl (2)  |  Passion (24)  |  Pupil (10)  |  Sleep (25)  |  Specialty (6)  |  Subject (51)  |  Teaching (64)  |  Value (63)  |  Rudolf Virchow (27)


See also:
  • todayinsci icon 12 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Osler's birth.
  • book icon William Osler: A Life in Medicine, by Michael Bliss. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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