Sir William Osler (1849-1919)

Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis

The December 13, 1884 issue of Medical News included a curious letter written by a correspondent who identified himself as Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis. The letter described "an uncommon form of vaginismus" that the doctor had been summoned to attend to. Apparently a maid had experienced a severe vaginal spasm while engaged in sexual intercourse. Consequently her lover, the coachman, became unable to remove himself from inside of her. Dr. Davis wrote that he relaxed the woman with chloroform and managed to separate the unhappy couple.

The strange thing about this letter is not that it described a medical case that never occurred, nor that the author, Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis, was similarly fictitious. The truly strange thing is that the actual author of the letter was William Osler (later Sir William Osler), who is regarded as one of the most highly respected figures in modern medical history. Dr. Osler served for many years as Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University and was instrumental in founding the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City. But throughout his illustrious career he continued to submit letters to medical journals under the pseudonym of Egerton Yorrick Davis. These letters often dealt with sexual subjects, such as his 1903 letter to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal titled "Peyronie's Disease—Strabisme du Penis" describing "an old codger" who experienced "a most remarkable change in his yard." Apparently these bizarre (and fictitious) sexual case histories were an expression of the mischievous sense of humor lurking behind the respectable façade of the famous doctor.

  • Jarcho, Saul. "Some Hoaxes in the Medical Literature". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Vol. 33. 1959. p.342-347.
  • Tigertt, William D. "An Annotated Life Of Egerton Yorrick Davis, M.D., An Intimate Of Sir William Osler". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 1983 38(3): 259-297.