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The Persisting Osler II: Selected Transactions of the American Osler Society 1981-1990

Gerald Tremblay, MD, JD
JAMA. 1995;274(12):990-991. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530120084050.
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William Osler was cremated—most of him anyway. His brain was spared because he had bequeathed it to the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia before his death. Most of the time, Osler's brain reposes quietly in a huge jar of formalin, sliced and cushioned between layers of cotton. The brain had been carried to the Wistar Institute from Oxford after Sir William's death and autopsy in 1919. It was subsequently much studied, perhaps in the hope of finding the anatomical basis for Osler's greatness. Grossly it is normal for a 70-year-old. In 1959 neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield borrowed it from Wistar and took it to the Neurological Institute in Montreal, where histologic sections were taken. They were normal.

Despite its gross and microscopic banality, Osler's brain was special, judging from the fruits of its long labors. Osler's many interests and lasting impact on medicine are reflected in the activities of the American Osler


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