Oliver Wendell HolmesOliver Wendell Holmes, a celebrated physician and professor of anatomy and physiology at Harvard, is the hardest of the three well-known Brahmins to categorize because his work is marked by a refreshing versatility. It encompasses collections of humorous essays (for example, The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, 1858), novels (Elsie Venner, 1861), biographies (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1885), and verse that could be sprightly ("The Deacon's Masterpiece, or, The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay"), philosophical ("The Chambered Nautilus"), or fervently patriotic ("Old Ironsides").
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the suburb of Boston that
is home to Harvard, Holmes was the son of a prominent local
minister. His mother was a descendant of the poet Anne
Bradstreet. In his time, and more so thereafter, he symbolized
wit, intelligence, and charm not as a discoverer or a
trailblazer, but rather as an exemplary interpreter of everything
from society and language to medicine and human nature.
Holmes was the father of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, the Supreme Court Justice.