The Disease
Brief Description Osler & Tuberculosis Selected Bibliography
Osler & Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis was commonplace in Osler's time. It moved without discrimination among all classes of society and it was invariably fatal. Even though it was not his main medical concern, Sir William Osler was interested in the disease from the beginning of his medical studies at McGill until his death in Oxford in 1919. At the beginning of the 1870s, Villemin's discovery of the specificity and inoculability of tuberculosis was a burning issue in the medical and scientific world. Osler's mentor in Montreal Dr. Robert Palmer Howard, was greatly interested in the disease, in particular, pulmonary lesions. Practising at the Montreal General Hospital, Palmer Howard insisted upon examining every case of tuberculosis in the dissecting room. Always present at his side, Osler was introduced to the works of LaŽnnec, Graves, Stokes and other leading experts of the time. In 1882, one month after the publication of report of Koch's discovery in the Canadian Medical and Surgical Journal, Osler was one of the first in North America to duplicate Koch's experiment in front of his students to demonstrate the presence of the bacilli in the lung of a victim of the disease.

During the first years of his career in Montreal and Philidelphia, Osler focussed on the pathological aspects of the disease. (As a result of his work in the autopsy room, he accidentally developed tuberculous warts on his hands.) While in Baltimore he grew concerned with the social aspects of the disease in particular extoling the importance public health in preventing the disease. Familiar with the works of Trudeau, the leader of the Sanatorium Movement, Osler promoted the open-air treatment and home treatment methods for tuberculosis. He founded the LaŽnnec Society for the study of tuberculosis at Johns Hopkins. He was instrumental in the founding of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis and he became the Society's honorary vice-president.

After his arrival in Oxford, Osler continued his advocacy supporting the foundation of the Oxfordshire Association of Tuberculosis and he was elected the association's first president. Lending his title as Regius Professor of Medicine, Osler never failed to express his views on the subject public health. He became one of the leaders of the anti-tuberculosis movement in North America and the United Kingdom. Through out his career Osler published more than fifty articles on the subject.

To learn more about Sir William Osler and his interest on tuberculosis please consult: Selected Bibliography

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