Sir William Osler

Canadian stamp William Osler

Date of issue: June 23, 1969
Printer: British American Bank Note Company
Design: George Sarras Fanais

Sir William Osler

William Osler was born in 1849 in Bond Head, Upper Canada (now Ontario). Following two years of medical school at the Toronto Medical College, he transferred to McGill where he obtained his M.D.C.M. in 1872. After further training in Europe, he returned to Montreal to join the McGill Medical Faculty as Professor and the Montreal General Hospital as a pathologist (1874). His further medical career took him to the University of Pennsylvania (1884), Johns Hopkins Hospital (1888), and Oxford (1905).

Osler is known for many accomplishments, including his textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine (which underwent many editions and translations), his philanthropy and influence in the development of many medical societies, his bibliophilia (his collection of books and manuscripts becoming the foundation for McGill’s Osler Library of the History of Medicine) and his role in transforming 19th-century medical education. He believed that students learn best by doing, with books and lectures functioning as supplementary material. This “bedside” approach to medical teaching became the mainstay of medical education in the 20th century. Osler died in Oxford in 1919.

The Stamp

The stamp commemorates the 50th anniversary of Osler’s death. It shows him with the Staff of Aesculapius on the right and the words “The System of Medicine” above. (The latter refers to a multi-author “Encyclopedia” he edited with Thomas McCrae from 1907 – 1910).

First day covers highlight several features, including:

  • his appearance in a photograph in 1881
  • his role in academic medicine, including a replica of the microscope he had students use at McGill, his library, and his advocacy for bedside teaching
  • his influence in psychosomatic medicine (related to his recognition of the influence of a patient’s cultural background, life experiences, and state of mind on disease and healing)
  • the 50th anniversary of his death

First-day cover William Osler


First day cover William Osler No 2


First-day cover William Osler No 3


First-day cover William Osler No 4


First-day cover William Osler No 5

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