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An exhibition in memory of medicine’s great humanist, Sir William Osler

The latest exhibition at the Royal Society of Medicine Library celebrates the life and works of Canadian physician Sir William Osler, 1849-1919.

Often described as the ‘Father of modern medicine’, Sir William Osler had many interests aside from being a physician and was a hugely influential figure in the formation of the RSM and its Library.

As well as being a great supporter of the RSM’s Library, he also founded the RSM’s History of Medicine Society in 1912 (one of the oldest History of Medicine societies in the world), supported the formation of the current incarnation of the RSM in 1907 and was twice offered the nomination of Presidency (which he declined on both occasions).

A renowned bibliophile, Osler donated a number of very rare and old books to the RSM Library, which form the main part of the exhibition – situated in the main library space on the first floor. Displayed alongside these texts are other items relating to Osler’s contributions to the RSM, including letters, minutes and the History of Medicine’s President’s Medal.

One particular highlight of the exhibition are the Withering Letters. Bestowed to the RSM in Osler’s will, this collection of letters is a unique resource that sheds light on the life of William Withering (1741 – 1799) - a significant botanist who discovered foxglove to be the active ingredient in folk medicine. Hand-written and beautifully preserved, the letters provide a great insight into the life of a botanist working throughout the 18th century.

‘Medicine’s Great Humanist: William Osler’ is open now and free to all.

Opening hours:

Monday to Thursday: 9:30am to 6:00pm
Friday: 9:30am to 5:30pm 
Weekends: Closed

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