Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American author, son of the Rev. Abiel Holmes, born in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 29, 1809. He graduated at Harvard college in 1829, and entered upon the study of the law, which he soon abandoned for medicine, and in 1832 went to Europe to pursue his studies, passing several years in attendance on the hospitals of Paris and other large cities. He received the degree of M. D. in 1836, in 1838 was chosen professor of anatomy and physiology in Dartmouth college, and in 1847 was elected to fill the same chair in the medical college of Harvard university. Early in his college life he attracted attention as a poet. He contributed to the "Collegian," a periodical conducted by the undergraduates of the college, and also to "Illustrations of the Athenaeum Gallery of Paintings11 in 1831, and to the "Harbinger, a May Gift," in 1833. In 1830 he read before the Phi Beta Kappa society " Poetry, a Metrical Essay," which was published in the first collected edition of his "Poems" (Boston, 1830). "Terpsichore" was read by him at a dinner of the same society in 1843, and "Urania" was published in 1840. In 1850 he delivered before the Yale chapter of the same society a poem entitled "Astra?a," which was published in the same year.
His poems have passed through many editions since they first appeared in a collected form, and have been republished at different times in England. He has been a frequent contributor to periodical literature. In the "Atlantic Monthly" (Boston, 1857) he began a series of articles under the title of "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," which were continued for a year, and constituted one of the most brilliant events in contemporary American literature. They were followed by " The Professor at the Breakfast Table," and in 1872 by "The Poet at the Breakfast Table." As a writer of songs and lyrics, both humorous and serious, Dr. Holmes stands in the first rank; many of his best poems are of this class, and have been written for social or festive occasions at which they have been recited or sung by the poet himself. Of patriotic lyrics few are likely to have a longer life than his stirring verses to "Old Ironsides," and his "Last Leaf" is one of the most famous of those rare poems in which humor and pathos are successfully blended. He is also popular as a lyceum lecturer. He has distinguished himself by his researches in auscultation and microscopy.
In 1838 he published three "Boylston Prize Dissertations;" in 1842, " Lectures on Homoeopathy and its Kindred Delusions;" in 1848, a "Report on Medical Literature," in the "Transactions of the National Medical Society;" a pamphlet on " Puerperal Fever;" and, in conjunction with Dr. Jacob Bigelow, an edition of Hall's "Theory and Practice of Medicine" (8vo, 1839). His later works are: "Currents and Countercurrents in Medical Science" (1861); "Elsie Venner, a Romance of Destiny " (2 vols., 1861); " Songs in Many Keys " (1864); " Soundings from the Atlantic " (1864); " The Guardian Angel" (1868); and " Mechanism in Thought and Morals" (1870).