Quotes from Dr. William Osler

William Osler

Do you need a break from the daily grind? Maybe even from the regular deluge of FOAM flooding your inbox? Maybe what you really need is a good dose of Canada’s hero and most quotable doctor, William Osler. It’s almost impossible to read anything he said and not be inspired to get back to helping patients, teaching students, and just generally enjoying this profession. Here are some of my favorite quotes. (These are all quotes attributed to Osler somewhere. I never fact checked over the years and I certainly don’t have sources for any of them. If the wisdom comes from another source, it doesn’t make it any less wise.)

“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

“One special advantage of the skeptical attitude of mind is that a man is never vexed to find that after all he has been in the wrong.”

“The first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.”

“One finger in the throat and one in the rectum makes a good diagnostician.”

“The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism”

“Avoid wine and women — choose a freckly-faced girl for a wife; they are invariably more amiable.”

“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”

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.”

“The very first step towards success in any occupation is to become interested in it.”

“To study the phenomena of disease without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all.”

“There is no disease more conducive to clinical humility than aneurysm of the aorta.”

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.”

“Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought.”

“It is much simpler to buy books than to read them and easier to read them than to absorb their contents.”

“Varicose veins are the result of an improper selection of grandparents.”

“To confess ignorance is often wiser than to beat about the bush with a hypothetical diagnosis.”

“To it, more than to anything else, I owe whatever success I have had — to this power of settling down to the day’s work and trying to do it to the best of one’s ability, and letting the future take care of itself.”

“Throw away all ambition beyond that of doing the day’s work well. The travelers on the road to success live in the present, heedless of taking thought for the morrow. Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your wildest ambition.”

“Perhaps no sin so easily besets us as a sense of self-satisfied superiority to others.”

“In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.”

“A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

“Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaint.”

“The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.”

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