Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was a poet, writer, doctor, medical reformer, professor, and speaker from the United States. People know him for his speaking and writing skills. The “Breakfast-Table” series was his best piece of prose and made him famous all over the world. He was part of “Fireside Poets” with people like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier. The writings of the American “Fireside Poets” were thought to be traditional and good for families. They were also some of the first to become very popular in Europe. His work was respected and praised by his peers, and he also got praise from people all over the world. From Boston, he promoted the culture of the city, and his writings often showed how he felt about Boston. So, he is often called a “Boston Brahmin” because of this. He came up with this term to describe the oldest and smartest families in Boston. He thought that Boston was “the intellectual center of the continent and, by extension, of the world.” He worked as both a doctor and a professor of physiology and anatomy at Harvard University. He was one of the people who started the magazine called “Atlantic Monthly.” He also wrote novels, table-talk books, travelogues, biographies, and medical treatises, in addition to poetry. He wrote about many different things, like religion, medicine, psychology, politics, and society.

Early years and childhood

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1809. His parents were Reverend Abiel Holmes and his second wife, Sarah Wendell. His father was a minister at the “First Congressional Church,” and he was interested in history. His mother was the daughter of a wealthy merchant.

Since he was a child, he had asthma. People thought he was a smart and talented boy. He used to spend a lot of time in his father’s library, where he read works by Oliver Goldsmith and John Dryden, among others. At age 13, he wrote his first poem.

William Bigelow and Dame Prentiss were his teachers, and he later went to the “Port School” in Cambridgeport. When he read stories at school, his teachers often told him to stop.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. went to “Phillips Academy” in Andover, Massachusetts, when he was fifteen. His father sent him there because he wanted him to be like him. The academy was known for its traditional Calvinist teachings, but Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. did not want to be a theologian, so he did not enjoy the year he spent there.

At age 16, he went to “Harvard College,” where he graduated in 1829.
He worked at the “Hasty Pudding” as Secretary and Poet, and he was also chosen to join the “Phi Beta Kappa” honor society.

After he graduated, he spent a short time at “Harvard Law College,” but then he decided to become a doctor and went to “Boston Medical College.”
In 1833, he went to Paris to study medicine at well-known schools. He was one of the first Americans who went to the “École de Médecine” to learn about the new “clinical” procedure.

He went back to Harvard and in 1836 got his MD from the “Harvard Medical School.” When he was in his second year, he was one of twenty students to get a “Detours,” which is an academic award.

Oliver Holmes’s Career

In 1830, he wrote a lot of poems. He gave 25 of them to “The Collegian,” a magazine put together by his Harvard friends. Four of these were considered to be some of his best works. People thought that his other poem, “The Last Leaf,” was one of his best works. Lincoln had nothing but good things to say about the poem.

In November 1831 and February 1832, the “New England Magazine” published two of his essays with the title “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.” These essays were about life as seen from his boarding house’s breakfast table. The two essays turned out to be some of his best and most well-known writing.

He joined the Boston Medical Society, the Boston Society for Medical Improvement, and the Massachusetts Medical Society after he graduated.

In 1837, the “Harvard Medical School” gave him the “Boylston Prize” for a paper he wrote about the benefits of the stethoscope. After that, he became a member of the “Boston Dispensary.” He and some of his friends started the “Tremont Medical School” in Boston, which later joined the “Harvard Medical School.”

In 1838, he joined the “American Academy of Arts and Sciences” as a Fellow.
From 1838 to 1840, he taught physiology and anatomy as a professor at Dartmouth Medical School.
In 1842, he wrote an essay called “Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions” that was critical of the subject.

He made up the word “anesthesia” in 1846 and gave it to dentist William T. G. Morton, who used ether during surgery for the first time in public.
He was the dean of “Harvard Medical College” from 1847 to 1853. He also taught anatomy and physiology at Harvard until 1882.

He wrote for “The Atlantic Monthly” on a regular basis. Both readers and critics liked the two “The Autocrat at the Breakfast-Table” essays that he rewrote for the magazine. As a result, 10,000 copies of the magazine were sold in just three days.

In 1860, he made a hand stereoscope that lets you see 3-D pictures, but he didn’t patent it to make money from it.
In 1884, he took his daughter Amelia on a tour of Europe, where they met several famous writers. The universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh all gave him an honorary doctorate.

In 1886, he was given an honorary degree from Yale.
He also wrote, “The Professor at the Breakfast Table” in 1860, “Elsie Venner” in 1861, “Mechanism in Thought and Morals” and “The Poet at the Breakfast Table” in 1871. (1872)

Works of note

He wrote a poem called “Old Ironsides,” which was published in the “Boston Daily Advertiser” on September 16, 1830. It was against taking apart and scrapping the USS Constitution, an old Navy frigate from the 18th century. The poem brought him praise and attention from all over the country, which helped save the historic ship.

His essay “The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever,” which came out in 1843 and was re-released in 1855 as “Puerperal Fever as a Private Pestilence,” was seen as one of his most important and most groundbreaking contributions to medicine.

Personal History and Legacies

At King’s Chapel in Boston on June 15, 1840, he married Amelia Lee Jackson, who was the daughter of Justice Charles Jackson. The couple had three kids: Amelia Lee Jackson, Edward Jackson Holmes, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was an officer in the Civil War and an American judge. On February 6, 1888, his wife died.

He died in his sleep on October 7, 1894. He and his wife were both buried in the “Mount Auburn Cemetery” in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Estimated Net worth

Oliver is one of the wealthiest authors and is on the list of the most popular authors. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Oliver Wendell Holmes has a net worth of about $1.5 million.


People often asked him to write poems for special events like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Library is the name of the library at Phillips Academy, where he went to school. Songs, poems, essays, and medical papers from his personal library are kept in a special part of the library.

In 1915, people in Boston built a memorial seat and put a sundial near his last home. The seat and sundial can be seen from his library.
As a way to honor him, the King’s Chapel in Boston built a memorial tablet with a list of his accomplishments.