Oliver Wendell Holmes was a 19th century writer, physician, and Dean of Harvard Medical School. He was chosen as the namesake for the first educational society because in many ways he epitomizes the program's highest aspirations for its participants. His knowledge of science, his gifts as a teacher, his readiness for innovations, his enthusiasm for people his brilliance as a literary figure and social commentator, made him one of the outstanding men in Harvard Medical School history. In his role as physician and scientist, he identified the cause of childbed fever, he introduced the microscope to medical education in America, and he taught Anatomy, Pathology, and Physiology at the school for thirty-five years. He was such a gifted teacher that he was assigned the one o' clock lecture time because no one else could hold the attention of tired and restless students in their fifth hour of classes of the day.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes married Amelia Lee Jackson when he was thirty. They had three children: Oliver Wendell, Jr., Amelia Jackson Holmes, and Edward Jackson Holmes.
In 1875, Dr. Holmes was chosen to be the first president of the Boston Medical Library, remaining such until 1888 when he resigned primarily to meet his growing literary commitments. In the following year, Dr. Holmes gave nearly one thousand medical books to the Boston Medical Library, together with the shelving necessary to make them available to readers.