The Linacre, Harvey and Sydenham triptych (Acland's copy)

The famous panel with the portraits of Thomas Linacre, William Harvey and Thomas Sydenham can still be seen over the mantel in William Osler's library of his house in Oxford. This is the original copy belonged to Henry Acland, while the Osler's copy is at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine in Montreal.


They were Osler's three medical heroes and "the great triumvirate of British Medicine"1. He saw the triptych for the first time in 1894, in the library of the then Regius Professor of Medicine Sir Henry Acland: "On first entering Acland's library, Osler exclaimed with delight at the panel of three portraits - Linacre, Harvey, and Sydenham - which stood over the mantel. He made such an ado about it that Mrs. Osler subsequently asked Sir Henry if they might not be copied for him as a birthday present. This was done, and in turn the triumvirate came to adorn the mantel of his own library and office at 1 West Franklin Street [in Baltimore], a familiar sight to countless students, friends, and patients. This same panel, moreover, was to dominate Osler's library in Oxford, for though his teacher Burdon Sanderson came between, it would almost seem as though Acland had knowingly handed on an emblem of the Regius Professorship to the man destined, in the whirligig of time and place, to become his successor"2.

After Osler's death, his copy of the triptych was sent to Montreal, together with his library.

“Sir Henry Acland died on October 16th, 1900, at the age of 85, but his affairs had long been in order and in a codicil to his will, dated March 14th, 1893, he bequeathed to the University of Oxford, an astronomical clock, John Hunter's chair, and ‘The portraits of Sydenham, Linacre and Harvey in one frame to be kept in the room at the Museum of the Regius Professor of Medicine.’ Osler, as the Regius Professor, inherited this room. He wrote in 1905 "I have very nice official rooms at the Museum, with two laboratory rooms attached, … . It was there that he found the three portraits which had thrilled him on his first visit to Oxford eleven years before. (…) In 1954 the Regius Professor relinquished the last of his rooms in the Museum for which Sir Henry Acland had fought so hard a century before. Two years later Sir George Pickering became the first Regius, since Osler, to reside in 13 Norham Gardens. Acland's triptych was moved to 13 Norham Gardens where it now hangs in the Regius Professor's office over the maple wood mantelpiece made from doors in Dr. S.D. Gross' home in Philadelphia and brought by the OsIers to Baltimore and thence to Oxford. This office was formerly Lady Osler's drawing room and her carpet is still on the floor”3.

  • Photos by ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#ihgroB acuL (August 2011), courtesy of the Osler-McGovern Centre.


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