Sir William Osler was born on this date in 1849. Readers may not be aware of the fact that his father, the Reverend Featherstone Lake Osler, originally wanted to name him Walter, in recognition of an English benefactor of his ministry in the wilds of Canada. Given that he was born on July 12th, however, it was decided to name him in honour of King William of Orange, the British monarch who defeated the Catholic Stuarts in the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th, 1690.
In many parts of Canada, including Bond Head, Ontario where Sir William was born, Irish Protestants belonging to the Orange Lodge celebrated the “Glorious Twelfth” with parades. When the one in Bond Head arrived at the Osler parsonage in 1849, the assembled Orangemen insisted that the baby boy be named after their beloved King Billy. Perhaps Featherstone felt it best not to argue with them.
Want to learn more about the history of one of the world’s most illustrious physicians? Check out our Osleriana guide to online resources. You can also browse through our William Osler Photo Collection, which contains numerous images and information about all stages of Osler’s life. There is an entry for Sir William Osler in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and Edith Gitting Reid’s short biography The Great Physician is available through the Internet Archive. Of course, the Osler Library has a large number of biographies of Sir William that you can consult or borrow.
Happy Glorious Twelfth!