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Biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes was born on August 29, 1809 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Holmes was the son of a minister and a well established New England family. He was educated at Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and later at Harvard University.

After changing his major from law, Holmes left to Paris to study medicine. While there, he learned various techniques and approaches to medicine, which he later reflected on in Homeopathy, and Its Kindred Delusions (1842) and The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever (1843).

Holmes later returned to Harvard in 1836 to receive his doctorate and publish his first book, Poetry. Holmes then began contributing numerous works to periodicals around America. Most notably, his contribution to The Collegian showed his comic and satiric verse. His works were seen as elegant yet serious and good joy. His first book was then followed by numerous other pieces such as Terpsichore (1846) a poem, Urania (1850), Astreea, and another poem; The Balance of Allusions.

While in Cambridge, Holmes was surrounded by poetic minds, him being the typical university poet. In his surroundings were the minds of Lowell, Longfellow, Emerson and others.

Meanwhile, his first son, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was born. He later became a Supreme Court Justice.

Two years after his return to Harvard, he was appointed as chair of Anatomy and Physiology at Dartmouth College. Holmes held the position at Dartmouth until 1847, when he accepted a similar position in Harvard until 1892.

In 1846, in a letter to William T.G. Morton, a dentist who first publicly demonstrated the use of ether in surgery, coined the word anaesthesia.

After the outbrake of the civil war, no other poet was more vocal of the conflict. Holmes shared the position as a partiot, not for one side or the other. But for America.

After the great American ship was declared unseaworthy, Holmes wrote one of his finest poems, Old Ironsides.

His poetry was made up of short but beautiful poems, humor, wit and most notably of high class.

Oliver Wendell Holmes died in Boston, Massachusetts on October 8, 1894. He is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Poems by Oliver Wendell Holmes