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Oliver Wendell Holmes

Holmes c. 1879
Holmes c.  1879

Born

Oliver Wendell HolmesAugust 29, 1809 Cambridge, Massachusetts, US

Died

October 7, 1894 Boston, Massachusetts, US

Oliver Wendell Holmes was an American physician, poet, and polymath based in Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets, he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of the day. His most famous prose works are the "Breakfast-Table" series, which began with The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table . He was also an important medical reformer. In addition to his work as an author and poet, Holmes also served as a physician, professor, lecturer and inventor and, although he never practiced it, he received formal training in law.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Holmes was educated at Phillips Academy and Harvard College. After graduating from Harvard in 1829, he briefly studied law before turning to the medical profession. He began writing poetry at an early age; one of his most famous works, "Old Ironsides", was published in 1830 and was influential in the eventual preservation of the USS Constitution. Following training at the prestigious medical schools of Paris, Holmes was granted his Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School in 1836. He taught at Dartmouth Medical School before returning to teach at Harvard and, for a time, served as dean there. During his long professorship, he became an advocate for various medical reforms and notably posited the controversial idea that doctors were capable of carrying puerperal fever from patient to patient. Holmes retired from Harvard in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essays until his death in 1894.

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Discover Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes and Sayings

Old age is fifteen years older than I am. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Old age is fifteen years older than I am.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

age
Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

art
Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

wisdom future beauty
The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

best
I won't accept anything less than the best a player's capable of doing... and he has the right to expect the best that I can do for him and the team! - Oliver Wendell Holmes

I won't accept anything less than the best a player's capable of doing... and he has the right to expect the best that I can do for him and the team!

Oliver Wendell Holmes

best
Have the courage to act instead of react. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Have the courage to act instead of react.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

courage
A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

death
The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

learning education
It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

faith
If I were dying my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

If I were dying my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

faith
If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

freedom
But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

friendship
Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

friendship
Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

friendship
Sweet is the scene where genial friendship plays the pleasing game of interchanging praise. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sweet is the scene where genial friendship plays the pleasing game of interchanging praise.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

friendship
Fresh air is good if you do not take too much of it most of the achievements and pleasures of life are in bad air. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Fresh air is good if you do not take too much of it most of the achievements and pleasures of life are in bad air.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

good