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Presented in part before the Halsted Society, Point Clear, Alabama,

September 19, 1987.


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Ivan W. Brown, Jr.,
M.D., 1408 Easton Drive, Lakeland, FL 33803.
Accepted for publication: June 23, 1989.

which he had worked so hard. After coaching the Princeton varsity football team that fall, Penfield enrolled, instead, in Columbia University's College of Physicians and
Surgeons. In December, however, he recieved a postcard
from Davison2 reassuring him that the teaching at Oxford
with fewer students because of the war was, if anything,
better than ever. Davison's card was persuasive, for Penfield immediately arranged for the reinstatement of his
scholarship and sailed for England. He entered Oxford's
Merton College in January 1915 in time for the winter
term.
The first of Holman's student adventures began while
enroute to Oxford. By early 1914 there was growing concern that guerrilla wars, border clashes, and uprisings in
some of the countries of southeastern Europe might set
off a larger war.
In late spring 1914, David Starr Jordon decided to make
a personal peace crusade through the Balkans, Greece,
and Turkey to preach the evils of war. He invited Holman,
then his secretary, to accompany him. Holman gladly accepted because their itinerary was to end in London in
time for him to enter Oxford for the fall term.
The trip took them through rugged Balkan back-country and among warring guerrilla groups where travel was
frequently hazardous. When they left Sofia, Bulgaria, the
Queen loaned them her open touring car and two armed
soldiers to protect them. Frequently they found themselves
living under primitive conditions with no, or appalling,
sanitary facilities. At the Greek Macedonian border, they
were placed in custody of a Greek army unit with whom
they traveled for a time. The only food was served from
a common bowl into which each person dipped his own
spoon. Eventually Jordon developed dysentery. In spite
of it, and his age, then 63, he pressed on with his peace
campaign. Holman, however, soon became skeptical of
success for Jordon's crusade for, as he wrote to a friend,
"It seems we no longer leave a country when they go
to war."3

224

ILBURT CORNELL DAVISON, founder and first


Dean of the Duke University Medical School;
Wilder Graves Penfield, noted neurosurgeon,
founder and first Director of the Montreal Neurological
Institute of McGill University; and Emile Frederic Holman, noted vascular surgeon and long-time chairman of
the Department of Surgery at Stanford University, were
Rhodes Scholars and medical students together at Oxford
during the early years of World War I (Fig. 1). Probably
few, if any, students since have had such exciting adventures or been so actively involved while in medical school
in so many of the major historical events of their time.
Before entering Oxford, Davison and Penfield had been
classmates at Princeton, from which they received their
undergraduate degrees in 1913. Holman had graduated
from Stanford in 191 1 then worked for 2 years as a secretary to Stanford president David Starr Jordon, famous
naturalist, fervent pacifist, and one of the more noted and
peripatetic lecturers of the time.
As undergraduates, all three had hoped to study medicine and had long held aspirations of winning one of the
new Rhodes Scholarships that had been established just
a few years before. In those days, the 3-year Rhodes
Scholarship with its $1500 annual stipend would nearly
cover the cost of a medical education.
Davison won his Rhodes scholarship in 1912 and entered Oxford's Merton College for the fall term in 1913.
Holman won his scholarship in 1914 and entered Oxford's
St. John's College that October.
With the outbreak of war in August 1914, Penfield,
fearing that the war would disrupt all teaching at Oxford,
at first abandoned his newly won Rhodes scholarship for

W
L

IVAN W. BROWN, JR. M.D

The Amazing Adventures of Wilburt C. Davison,


Wilder G. Penfield, and Emile F. Holman While
Rhodes Scholars in Medicine at Oxford
During World War I, 1913-19 17

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ADVENTURES OF DAVISON, PENFIELD, AND HOLMAN

225

Finally Jordon was so ill on the last leg of their j ourney


that Holman, now playing the role of nurse, began to
despair whether Jordon would survive long enough to

reach proper medical care. As Holman described it, 3 "We


arrived in Brendisi aboard a Russian ship and caught a
train for Naples. By this time, Dr. Jordon was lying in

FIGS. lA-F. (A) Dr. Wilburt C. Davison in his later years. (B) he is shown throwing the hammer at Oxford. He was also on the water polo team and
rowed for the Oxford "torpids" or second boat. (Courtesy of Davison Archives, Duke University Medical Center) (C) Dr. Emile F. Holman in his
later years. (D) At Oxford in his rugby football uniform. In 197 1, when this photograph of Holman in his rugby uniform appeared in the Stanford
Alumni Almanac, he wrote the editor:' "My academic friends will be surprised to note that I played rugby football against Cambridge, a phenomenon
that was possible only in a wartime England." (Courtesy of Stanford Alumni Almanac) (E) Dr. Wilder G. Penfield in his later years. (F) In tennis
garb at Oxford. Penfield had been a football star at Princeton and greatly enjoyed playing rugby football at Oxford. (Courtesy Penfield archives, Osler
library, McGill and Davison archives, Duke University.)

Vol. 211 -*No. 2