1830 proved to be an important year for Holmes as a poet; while disappointed by his law studies, he began writing poetry for his own amusement. Before the end of the year, he had produced over fifty poems, contributing twenty-five of them (all unsigned) to The Collegian, a short-lived publication started by friends from Harvard. Four of these poems would ultimately become among his best-known: "The Dorchester Giant", "Reflections of a Proud Pedestrian", "Evening / By a Tailor" and "The Height of the Ridiculous". Nine more of his poems were published anonymously in the 1830 pamphlet Illustrations of the Athenaeum Gallery of Paintings.
Having given up on the study of law, Holmes switched to medicine. After leaving his childhood home in Cambridge during the autumn of 1830, he moved into a boardinghouse in Boston to attend the city's medical college. At that time, students studied only five subjects: medicine, anatomy and surgery, obstetrics, chemistry and materia medica. Holmes became a student of James Jackson, a physician and the father of a friend, and worked part-time as a chemist in the hospital dispensary. Dismayed by the "painful and repulsive aspects" of primitive medical treatment of the time—which included practices such as bloodletting and blistering—Holmes responded favorably to his mentor's teachings, which emphasized close observation of the patient and humane approaches. Despite his lack of free time, he was able to continue writing. He wrote two essays during this time which detailed life as seen from his boardinghouse's breakfast table. These essays, which would evolve into one of Holmes's most popular works, were published in November 1831 and February 1832 in the New England Magazine under the title "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table". In 1833, Holmes traveled to Paris to further his medical studies. Recent and radical reorganization of the city's hospital system had made medical training there highly advanced for the time. At twenty-three years old, Holmes was one of the first Americans trained in the new "clinical" method being advanced at the famed École de Médecine. Since the lectures were taught entirely in French, he engaged a private language tutor. Although far from home, he stayed connected to his family and friends through letters and visitors—Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example, visited one day—he quickly acclimated to his new surroundings. While writing to his father, he stated, "I love to talk French, to eat French, to drink French every now and then." At the hospital of La Pitié, he studied under internal pathologist Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis, who demonstrated the ineffectiveness of bloodletting, which had been a mainstay of medical practice since antiquity. Dr. Louis was one of the fathers of the methode expectante, a therapeutic doctrine that states the physician's role is to do everything possible to aid nature in the process of disease recovery, and to do nothing to hinder this natural process. Upon his return to Boston, Holmes became one of the country's leading proponents of the méthode expectante. Holmes was awarded his M.D. from Harvard in 1836; he wrote his dissertation on acute pericarditis. His first collection of poetry was published later that year, but Holmes, ready to begin his medical career, wrote it off as a one-time event. In the book's introduction, he mused: "Already engaged in other duties, it has been with some effort that I have found time to adjust my own mantle; and I now willingly retire to more quiet labors, which, if less exciting, are more certain to be acknowledged as useful and received with gratitude".
After graduation, Holmes quickly became a fixture in the local medical scene by joining the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Boston Medical Society, and the Boston Society for Medical Improvement—an organization composed of young, Paris-trained doctors. He also gained a greater reputation after winning Harvard Medical School's prestigious Boylston Prize, for which he submitted a paper on the benefits of using the stethoscope, a device with which many American doctors were not familiar. In 1837, Holmes was appointed to the Boston Dispensary, where he was shocked by the poor hygienic conditions. That year he competed for and won both of the Boylston essay prizes. Wishing to concentrate on research and teaching, he, along with three of his peers, established the Tremont Medical School—which would later merge with Harvard Medical School—above an apothecary shop at 35 Tremont Row in Boston. There, he lectured on pathology, taught the use of microscopes, and supervised dissections of cadavers. He often criticized traditional medical practices and once quipped that if all contemporary medicine was tossed into the sea "it would be all the better for mankind—and all the worse for the fishes". For the next ten years, he maintained a small and irregular private medical practice, but spent much of his time teaching. He served on the faculty of Dartmouth Medical School from 1838 to 1840, where he was appointed professor of anatomy and physiology. For fourteen weeks each fall, during these years, he traveled to Hanover, New Hampshire, to lecture. On June 15, 1840, Holmes married Amelia Lee Jackson at King's Chapel in Boston. She was the daughter of the Hon. Charles Jackson, formerly Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and the niece of James Jackson, the physician with whom Holmes had studied. Judge Jackson gave the couple a house at 8 Montgomery Place, which would be their home for eighteen years. They had three children: Civil War hero and American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841–1935), Amelia Jackson Holmes (1843–1889), and Edward Jackson Holmes (1846–1884). After Holmes resigned his professorship at Dartmouth, he composed a series of three lectures dedicated to exposing medical fallacies, or "quackeries". Adopting a more serious tone than his previous lectures, he took great pains to reveal the false reasoning and misrepresentation of evidence that marked subjects such as "Astrology and Alchemy", his first lecture, and "Medical Delusions of the Past", his second. He deemed homeopathy, the subject of his third lecture, "the pretended science" that was a "mingled mass of perverse ingenuity, of tinsel erudition, of imbecile credulity, and of artful misrepresentation, too often mingled in practice". In 1842, he published the essay "Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions" in which he again denounced the practice.
While dean, Holmes attempted to admit the first African-Americans and the first woman to the Harvard Medical School. The same year, Holmes was approached by Martin Delany, an African-American man who had worked with Frederick Douglass. The 38-year-old requested admission to Harvard after having been previously rejected by four schools despite impressive credentials. In a controversial move, Holmes admitted Delany and two other black men to the Medical School About 1860, Holmes invented the "American stereoscope", a 19th century entertainment in which pictures were viewed in 3D. He later wrote an explanation for its popularity, stating: "There was not any wholly new principle involved in its construction, but, it proved so much more convenient than any hand-instrument in use, that it gradually drove them all out of the field, in great measure, at least so far as the Boston market was concerned."Rather than patenting the hand stereopticon and profiting from its success, Holmes gave the idea away.
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About the book: Houghton Mifflin 1908 Contents 1.2MB JPEG in RAR
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