Fever, famine, and war: William Osler as an infectious diseases specialist

Clin Infect Dis. 1996 Nov;23(5):1139-49. doi: 10.1093/clinids/23.5.1139.


In 1896 William Osler addressed the American Medical Association on "The study of the Fevers of the the South", a lecture in which he showed his keen appreciation for the history, pathology, epidemiology, and management of infectious diseases. Osler can be claimed as an infectious diseases specialist not only because infections were the most common causes of death during his time but also because his perspectives and personal qualities typify the discipline as it has evolved during the twentieth century. Ten such desiderata are reviewed. A century later Osler's conclusion remains true for this specialty: "Fever in its varied forms is still with ... but it is of almost equal importance to know that the way has been opened, and that the united efforts of many workers in many lands are day by day disarming this great enemy of the race".

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Lecture
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases*
  • Fever*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Medicine*
  • Specialization*
  • Starvation
  • Warfare

Personal name as subject

  • W Osler