Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Two Oliver Wendell Holmes

By John T Jones, Ph.D.

Oliver Wendell Holmes is known to us because of his poetry. But he was a medical doctor and professor at Harvard University Medical School. Some don’t realize that he and his son were not the same person.

At we learn the following about the father, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.:

“HOLMES was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 29, 1809, and died October 7, 1894.
”At the age of twenty he graduated at Harvard University, then took up the study of law. This study, however, was soon abandoned for medicine. He studied in Europe for a short time, and took his degree as doctor of medicine at Cambridge, in 1836. Two years later he was appointed to the chair of Anatomy and Physiology in Dartmouth College. This position he held till 1847, when he accepted a similar position at Harvard, which he held till 1892. All of his literary work was performed in addition to the labors of a continuous professorship in college of about forty-seven years…

“He will always stand in the temple of American literature, among the most brilliant and popular writers.”

We learn about Holmes’ famous son, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., from

“At the end of his service in the Civil War, Holmes entered Harvard Law School. He became co-editor of the "American Law Review," a commercial legal periodical, and wrote his great work "The Common-Law" in 1881. In 1882, Holmes became professor of law at Harvard, and was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1899. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Oliver Wendell Holmes to the United States Supreme Court in 1902. He exercised a deep influence on the law through his support of the doctrine of judicial restraint which urged judges to avoid letting their personal opinions affect their decisions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Now that we know there were two famous men of the same name, let’s get back to the father.
We know that he was a great poet, but did you know that he was a great initiator in medicine? His desire to teach doctors that they must be aware of their gynecological practices and keep a sterile environment to prevent the loss of life among mothers and new-born infants has saved many thousands of lives. His famous article on this subject was The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever.

If it were not for Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., many of you would not be here to read this article, and perhaps I would not have been here to write it.

There is free e-book with some of the poems of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. at:

Why not read a poem or two now. You’ll be glad you did!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

If it were not for Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the Supreme Court would still be making decisions based on personal opinions rather than the law.

Or are they?

The End

copyright©John T. Jones, Ph.D. 2005

John T. Jones, Ph.D. ( a retired R&D engineer and VP of a Fortune 500 company. He is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering), poetry, etc. Former editor of international trade magazine. Jones is Executive Representative of International Wealth Success. More info: Business web site: (IWS wealth-success books and kits and business newsletters / TopFlight flagpoles)

Article Source:,_Ph.D.

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