It’s a common stereotype that there are math-science people and language-history people, but that these two don’t often overlap. In honor of those who were kind of good at everything, today’s Top 5 features men (sorry, ladies – we can’t say the past was too kind to women who were interested in science) who could capture our hearts with words and probably operate on them, too.
Here are our top five writers and poets who were also doctors:
Tobias Smollett was a Scottish novelist known for such works as Roderick Random (1748) and The History and Adventures of an Atom (1769). Before all that, though, he was a surgeon’s mate in the British navy. In 1744 he worked as a surgeon in his own right for a while before deciding to really commit to his literary career. Well done, Mr. Smollett.
We’ll admit we cheated a bit with this one, since John Keats, talented medicinal man though he was, didn’t quite make it to full-blown doctor status, though he did get his apothecary’s license. He studied at Guy’s Hospital from 1815-1817, and while he was a medical student, he published a sonnet called “O Solitude.” From then on, he had made up his mind that he liked writing poetry more than he liked learning about medicine, and went on to write poems such as “Ode to a Nightingale” (1820) and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1820).
The Scottish writer studied medicine at Edinburgh, but was so poor while he worked as a medical practitioner, that he had to write to support himself. He published his first book, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887, which introduced us to the observant detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend Dr. John Watson. He continued to write The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in a serialized form (1891-1893), but got sick of Holmes and decided to kill him off. From 1899-1902 he was a physician in the Boer War, and in 1903, Doyle decided it was time to bring back a certain pipe-smoking sleuth.
The son of a grocer and the grandson of a serf, Chekhov began writing to support himself and his family while he went to medical school. Unlike Keats and Smollet, though, once he realized he was pretty good at writing, he didn’t give up medicine, and for the most part he practiced both concurrently (as in during the same periods in his life, not that he was treating people with one hand and writing with the other, though that would have been pretty awesome).
[no usable image available, he’s just that awesome]
The poet with the cool name who blew your mind in high school when you realized a sentence about a red wheelbarrow could be so highly regarded is about to blow your mind once more: He was a doctor for more than 40 years. He was born in New Jersey, educated in Switzerland, earned his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, studied pediatrics at the University of Leipzig, and opened his own medical practice in 1910 back in New Jersey. Oh, and while he was saving lives, he wrote poetry and went on to be considered one of the most important poets of the 20th century. We guess that’s kind of impressive.