Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oliver Wendell Holmes, SR

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr daguerreotype.jpeg
Holmes in about 1853
BornOliver Wendell Holmes
August 29, 1809
Cambridge, Massachusetts
DiedOctober 7, 1894 (aged 85)
Boston, Massachusetts
Today is the birthday of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.  one of my heroes. He was an author, poet and medical reformer. In 1846, Holmes coined the word "anesthesia",the first practitioner to publicly demonstrate the use of ether during surgery. He introduced the practice of prophylaxis (hand washing in chlorine solution before assisting at delivery) to considerably lower the puerperal (occurring during childbirth or the period immediately following) mortality rate.  Having worked in OB/GYN for many years, I know the importance of sanitary conditions.  He was a forward thinking man, true to his ideals.

He was many faceted man.  Beside his medical career he was an author and poet--a man who experienced life.  This poem of his always makes me smile:

The Height of the Ridiculous

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

I WROTE some lines once on a time 
In wondrous merry mood, 
And thought, as usual, men would say 
They were exceeding good. 

They were so queer, so very queer, 
I laughed as I would die; 
Albeit, in the general way, 
A sober man am I. 

I called my servant, and he came; 
How kind it was of him 
To mind a slender man like me, 
He of the mighty limb. 

“These to the printer,” I exclaimed, 
And, in my humorous way, 
I added (as a trifling jest,) 
“There ’ll be the devil to pay.” 

He took the paper, and I watched, 
And saw him peep within; 
At the first line he read, his face 
Was all upon the grin. 

He read the next; the grin grew broad, 
And shot from ear to ear; 
He read the third; a chuckling noise 
I now began to hear. 

The fourth; he broke into a roar; 
The fifth; his waistband split; 
The sixth; he burst five buttons off, 
And tumbled in a fit. 

Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye, 
I watched that wretched man, 
And since, I never dare to write 
As funny as I can.

We can all learn a lesson by following his example of a person who is not held back by what is considered normal or "the way it's always done".  We each can expand our horizons and improve our world.  We must not forget to include humor in our daily life.

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