Holmes Oliver Wendell

Both Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 –1935) and his father, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809 –1894), are discussed on this page.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 –1935), 6th cousin 5x removed

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., taken in the year of his appointment to the United States Supreme Court (1902)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902-1932.  Noted for his long service, his concise and pithy opinions and his deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, he is one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court justices in history, particularly for his “clear and present danger” majority opinion in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, and he is one of the most influential American common law judges.  Holmes retired from the Court at the age of 90, making him the oldest Justice in the Supreme Court’s history.  He also served as an Associate Justice and as Chief Justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and was Weld Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, of which he was an alumnus.  Holmes helped move American legal thinking away from formalism and towards legal realism, as summed up in his maxim: “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”  Holmes espoused a form of moral skepticism and opposed the doctrine of natural law, marking a significant shift in American jurisprudence.  As he wrote in one of his most famous decisions, his dissent in Abrams v. United States (1919), he regarded the United States Constitution as “an experiment, as all life is an experiment” and believed that as a consequence “we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”  During his tenure on the Supreme Court, he supported efforts for economic regulation and advocated broad freedom of speech under the First Amendment.  These positions, as well as his distinctive personality and writing style, made him a popular figure, especially with American progressives, despite his deep cynicism and disagreement with their politics.  His jurisprudence influenced much subsequent American legal thinking, including judicial consensus supporting New Deal regulatory law, pragmatism, critical legal studies, and law and economics.  The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Holmes as one of the three most cited American legal scholars of the 20th century.

On his father’s side: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 – 1935), 6th cousin 5x removed – Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) – Abiel Holmes (1763 – 1837) – Temperance Bishop (1733 – 1803) – John Bishop (1685 – 1754) – Hester Cogswell (1655 – 1704) – William Cogswell (1619 – 1700) – John Cogswell (1592 – 1669) – John Cogswell (1622 – 1653) – Samuel Cogswell (1651 – 1701) – Samuel Cogswell (1677 – 1752) – Althea Cogswell (1715 – ) – Lucy Foster (1740 – 1785) – Loren Hamlin (1784 – 1843) – Fayette B Hamlin (1812 – 1866) – Henry Fayette Hamlin (1834 – 1901) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

 

On his mother’s side: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 – 1935), 8th cousin 3x removed – Amelia Lee Jackson (1818 – 1888) – Charles Jackson (1775 – 1855) – Hannah Tracy (1755 – 1797) – Hannah Gookin (1724 – 1756) – Nathaniel Gookin (1687 – 1734) – Hannah Savage (1667 – 1702) – Habijah Savage (1638 – 1669) – Faith Hutchinson (1617 – 1651) – William Hutchinson (1586 – 1641) – Edward (Capt.) Hutchinson (1613 – 1675) – Anne Hutchinson (1643 – 1716) – Ann Dyer (1672 – 1731) – Joseph Clarke (1694 – 1737) – Benjamin Clarke (1721 – 1790) – John Clarke (1780 – 1865) – Oratio Dyer Clarke (1811 – 1899) – Harriet Allen Clarke (1839 – 1898) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809 –1894), 5th cousin 6x removed

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894), an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894), an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) was an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author. Regarded by his peers as one of the best writers of the 19th century, he is considered a member of the Fireside Poets. His most famous prose works are the “Breakfast-Table” series, which began with The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). He is also recognized as an important medical reformer.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Holmes was educated at Phillips Academy and Harvard College. After graduating from Harvard in 1829, he briefly studied law before turning to the medical profession. He began writing poetry at an early age; one of his most famous works, “Old Ironsides”, was published in 1830 and was influential in the eventual preservation of the USS Constitution. Following training at the prestigious medical schools of Paris, Holmes was granted his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1836. He taught at Dartmouth Medical School before returning to teach at Harvard and, for a time, served as dean there. During his long professorship, he became an advocate for various medical reforms and notably posited the controversial idea that doctors were capable of carrying puerperal fever from patient to patient. Holmes retired from Harvard in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essays until his death in 1894.

Grave of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and his wife at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Grave of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and his wife at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Surrounded by Boston’s literary elite—which included friends such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell—Holmes made an indelible imprint on the literary world of the 19th century. Many of his works were published in The Atlantic Monthly, a magazine that he named. For his literary achievements and other accomplishments, he was awarded numerous honorary degrees from universities around the world. Holmes’s writing often commemorated his native Boston area, and much of it was meant to be humorous or conversational. Some of his medical writings, notably his 1843 essay regarding the contagiousness of puerperal fever, were considered innovative for their time. He was often called upon to issue occasional poetry, or poems written specifically for an event, including many occasions at Harvard. Holmes also popularized several terms, including “Boston Brahmin” and “anesthesia”.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894), 5th cousin 6x removed – Abiel Holmes (1763 – 1837) – Temperance Bishop (1733 – 1803) – John Bishop (1685 – 1754) – Hester Cogswell (1655 – 1704) – William Cogswell (1619 – 1700) – John Cogswell (1592 – 1669) – John Cogswell (1622 – 1653) – Samuel Cogswell (1651 – 1701) – Samuel Cogswell (1677 – 1752) – Althea Cogswell (1715 – ) – Lucy Foster (1740 – 1785) – Loren Hamlin (1784 – 1843) – Fayette B Hamlin (1812 – 1866) – Henry Fayette Hamlin (1834 – 1901) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

 

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