Osler Day 2016

Osler Library Board of Curators' medal

Osler Library Board of Curators’ medal

Come join us this Wednesday, October 26th for Osler Day 2016!

The Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Students Essay Contest has selected three  finalists who will each have the opportunity to present before the judges panel from 11:30-1:00pm in the Jonathan C. Meakins Auditorium, McIntyre Medical Building 5th Floor, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler.

The 2016 finalists are:

“Being placed at the Douglas Mental Health Institute for the family medicine shadowing program in first year was quite the adventure for me. Over time, I became increasingly interested in the history of mental health institutions like the Douglas, mental health care policies and more broadly, the history of psychiatry as a medical field.”


“As medical students, we are exposed to plenty of dogmas. Yet, medical dogma, like everything else in the world is susceptible to error. In accepting this, I sought to elucidate the origins of the formerly accepted belief that newborns did not feel pain”

Faculty, students, and friends are all welcome to attend and show their support for this year’s finalists. More details about the contest can be found here. Our special thanks to the Medical Students’ Osler Society, the Board of Curators of the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, and Pam and Rolando Del Maestro for their continued dedication with this celebrated annual event.

julio-biv__03_2In the evening, at 6:00pm in the Charles F. Martin Amphitheatre, the 39th Annual Osler Lectureship welcomes distinguished guest lecturer Dr. Julio SG Montaner, OC, OBC, MD, DSc (hon), FRCPC, FCCP, FACP, FRSC.

Director, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul’s Hospital, Providence Healthcare; Professor and Head, UBC-Division of AIDS, UBC and St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation Chair in AIDS Research; UNAIDS Special Advisor on HIV Therapeutics.

Dr. Montaner played a key role in establishing the efficacy of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) and since then has established the role of ‘Treatment as Prevention’ using HAART to simultaneously decrease progression to AIDS and death, as well as HIV transmission.

From Treatment to Prevention: Rethinking our Approach to Contagious Diseases

In 1996, medical researchers in British Columbia discovered that combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) significantly improved the quality and length of the lives of patients with HIV/AIDS, but only after the province began providing cART for free did researchers discover something equally profound: cART also prevented HIV transmission. This talk examines the journey from treatment to prevention and the implications for how we fight contagious diseases at local and global levels.


A Collaborative Exhibit for the Chinese Premier

Last month it was our pleasure to work in collaboration with McCord Museum and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) on a private exhibition for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Montreal. The combined curatorial effort resulted in a showcase of items with strong historical ties and cultural connections between Québec and China. The exhibit included maps, photographs, books, posters, and artifacts, with a particular emphasis on the great physician Norman Bethune — a McGill graduate and well-known Canadian hero in the People’s Republic of China.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (centre) views the exhibit with Osler Librarian Chris Lyons (front left) and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (back). The Globe and Mail, Saturday Sepetember 24, 2016. Photo credit: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press.

We welcome and look forward to more collaborative exhibits like this one in the future!

Alibert & Early French Dermatology

Clinique de L’Hopital Saint-Louis, de Traite Complet Des Maladies de la Peau, 1833. Unfortunately some evidence of water damage is visible, possibly from the 1907 fire.


France’s first dermatologist, Jean-Louis Alibert (1768-1837), was professor and chief-surgeon at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris. His medical achievements and reputation as a great teacher of hospital clinics put him in the company of other influential nineteenth century physicians, collectively known as the Paris School.

Osler Library’s rare book collection houses approximately a dozen titles of Alibert’s prolific work, including three copies of his second atlas entitled Clinique de L’Hôpital Saint-Louis, de Traite Complet Des Maladies de la Peau – two 1833 French copies, and an 1835 Italian translation. The atlas is an impressive work from both a medical and an artistic standpoint. It includes 63 hand coloured plates, including the botanically-inspired “Arbe des Dermatoses” (“Tree of Dermatology”).

“Arbre des Dermatoses” (“Tree of Dermatosis”) shows Alibert’s method to visually classify common skin diseases and disorders with twelve main branches, each representing a class of dermatosis.

Similar to other areas of science, medical research and the practice of medicine experienced rapid progression after the French Revolution (1789-1799). Newly implemented ideological and institutional reforms allowed physicians to focus on the greater health of the whole community, allowing for the opening of clinics for the general public. It was the dawning of the “medical gaze a term coined by Michel Foucault in his 1963 book The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception.

Alibert’s clinical lessons became well-known and attracted students and physicians alike to l’Hôpital Saint-Louis. Over the course of his career, Alibert was able to make important contributions to descriptions including lupus vulgaris, keloid, dermatolysis, mycosis fungoides, and cutaneous leishmaniasisis. He is also credited with several first descriptions – among them Mycosis fungoides (shown below). This book and others by Alibert are available to view in the Osler Library’s pre-1840 room during regular opening hours.

Science Literacy Week

sci-lit-week-1200McGill campus is gearing up for Science Literacy Week 2016, happening all through next week September 19-25th. The Osler Library will host a special guided tour of Knowing Blood: Medical Observations, Fluid Meanings with curators Darren N. Wagner and Nick Whitfield on Monday, Septemebr 19th @ 11:30am. Registration is not required, but feel free to sign up to let us know you are coming.

For more details and a full listing of next week’s events click here!

Winter Session 1878-1879

Think you’ve got a busy schedule this semester? Here’s what Winter Session 1878-1879 looked like for McGill’s Faculty of Medicine. The course schedule shown below belonged to Sir William Osler – Professor of Physiology, General Pathology, Histological & Physiological Demonstration (1st and 2nd year) and Pathological Demonstration that year. This historical piece of mcgilliana is part of our P100 collection – a collection that recently received a handful of new acquisitions generously donated from an Osler family relative (more on these new acquisitions coming soon!).


Instructors (listed in alphabetical order): Dr. Buller, Professor Craik, Professor Dawson, Professor Fenwick, Professor Gardner, Professor Godfrey, Professor Howard, Dr. MacDonnell, Professor McCallum, Professor Osler, Professor Roddick, Professor Ross, Professor Scott, Dr. Shepherd, & Professor Wright.


Courses (listed in no particular order): Anatomy, Hygiene, Medical Jurisprudence, Ophthalmic Clinic, Botany, Surgery, Practical Chemistry, Pathological Demonstration, Midwifery, Clinical Medicine, Clinical Surgery, Materia Medica, Histological & Physiological Demonstration, Physiology, General Pathology, Practice of Medicine, Chemistry, & Practical Anatomy.

Matriculation, 150 Years Ago


McGill graduate Dr. Alexander Dougall Blackader (1847-1932)

As students and faculty at McGill begin a new academic year this week, we thought we’d offer a historic glimpse into what matriculation looked like 150 years ago. The leather case shown below belonged to pioneering Canadian pediatrician, Dr. Alexander Dougall Blackader (1847-1932). It was used to contain his many matriculation and membership cards from his student days at McGill from 1866-1871. In those days, students were provided with official cards for each course, in addition to their McGill ID/matric and faculty cards.

Several years after graduation, Blackader joined McGill’s Faculty of Medicine as Instructor of Diseases of Children and eventually became Professor of Pediatrics and Acting Dean from 1915-1918. As one of the first physicians in North America to insist that diseases of children needed to be recognized as a specialty, Blackader was an instrumental figure in organizing Canada’s first pediatric clinic at the Montreal General Hospital. Over the years, Blackader held several positions at MGH before retiring and becoming editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The Osler Library houses a collection of Blackader’s personal and professional material including papers, lectures, autobiographical notes and diaries (P093). Here’s to a great 2016-17!


Alexander Dougall Blackader’s leather case from his student days, 1866-1871.


Alexander Dougall Blackader’s many matriculation/ID cards and membership cards from his student days at McGill, 1866-1871.


Version 2Aequanimitas — a term that derives from late-15th century Latin — means imperturbability, or one who is incapable of being upset, or agitated; one who is calm, and not easily excited.

William Osler’s Valedictory address entitled Aequanimitas was first presented at the University of Pennsylvania, May 1st, 1889. In this short speech, Osler advised imperturbability as one of two essential qualities of the physician and of the surgeon. He defined this quality as a coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, clearness of judgement in moments of peril, immobility, and impassiveness. The second quality he spoke of, equanimity, was described as being the mental and physical equivalent of the first.

It has been said that ‘in patience ye shall win your souls,’ and what is this patience but an equanimity which enables you to rise superior to the trials of life? Sowing as you shall do beside all waters, I can but wish that you may reap the promised blessings of quietness and of assurance forever, until

Within this life,

Though lifted o’er its strife;

you may, in the growing winters, glean a little of that wisdom which is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

For those interested in reading the full address and others made by Sir William Osler, we have several regular loan copies and various translations listed in the Classic Catalogue, in addition to rare and archived materials that are part of the Osler Library Archives collection.

Man: His Structure & Physiology


“Man: His Structure & Physiology: Popularly Explained and Demonstrated” by Robert Knox, 2nd edition, London: H. Bailliere, 1858.

This month we’ve chosen to highlight an anatomical atlas by Scottish anatomist, zoologist, and physician, Dr. Robert Knox (1791-1862). His popular book entitled Man: His Structure & Physiology: Popularly Explained and Demonstrated was originally published in 1857, with a second edition (shown here) printed a year later in 1858.

Knox was an esteemed professor at The University of Edinburgh — famous for his dissections and lectures which were often ticketed and open to the public. Prior to the 1832 Anatomy Act, it was discovered that Knox relied on illegal methods to acquire his cadavers. Knox was connected to the Burke and Hare West Port murders of 1828, and despite never being tried, his reputation was forever marred in controversy.

The atlas is described in simple language and includes some detailed plate illustrations — several of which can lift (“pop-up”) off the page. The idea behind this design was to imitate a dissection as much as possible, allowing students and readers to discover multiple layers of physiological detail. As the preface of the second edition describes, it is an “elementary and educational Work, containing such an outline of Human Structure and Human Physiology as may prove a safe basis whereon to build the edifice of special or philosophic inquiry and research” (London, October, 1857).

The book is available to view at the Osler Library during regular hours. For those who are not able to visit the library in person, a digitized version of a more recent pressing can be accessed at archive.org.

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Plate #3 from Robert Knox’s “Man: His Structure & Physiology: Popularly Explained and Demonstrated”, 2nd edition, 1858.

Version 2

Plate #6 from Robert Knox’s “Man: His Structure & Physiology: Popularly Explained and Demonstrated”, 2nd edition, 1858.






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Plate #8 with explanations on opposite page in Robert Knox’s “Man: His Structure & Physiology: Popularly Explained and Demonstrated”, 2nd edition, 1858.

Old School


A handful of New Canadian Health Series, published 1950s.

Harking back to simpler times, these colourful vintage volumes are from The New Canadian Health Series – a series of educational health books published in Canada during the 1950s.

A handful of these health guides, including the American ABC Health Series (pictured below) can be found in the Osler Library’s collection, available to view upon request. Acquired by the library in 2013 upon the closure of McGill’s Education Library, these volumes act as little time capsules of everyday health information and provide a fascinating retro-read of popular medicine through the eyes of mid-20th century North American culture.


Brownnell-Evans ABC Health Series, “Broad Streets”, 1950s


Brownnell-Evans-Hobson ABC Health Series, “Building Better Health”, 1950s.