AUA Summit - Earl F. Nation, MD (1910 – 2008)

Earl F. Nation, MD (1910 – 2008)

Earl F. Nation, MD

Earl F. Nation was an original founder of the American Osler Society and a lifelong collector and writer in his own right. Earl was born and raised in Zephyr, Texas and moved to San Diego, CA where he attended college. He became an ardent student and investigator of urology, in what Fielding Garrison called " …the first branch of medicine to emerge from the clouds of ignorance." He loved to collect books and famous articles and ephemera, and was especially fond of his Thomas Wolfe collection. Earl arose to outstanding levels of involvement with almost every organization with which he came into contact, and demonstrated great equanimity in all aspects of his long life.

During his final residency rotation on pathology, Nation was exposed to a tuberculous lung and thus developed acute tuberculous pneumonitis. In the 15 months at the Barlow sanitarium, he first read Harvey Cushing's biography of Sir William Osler. This led him to a life-long study of Osler, and formulation of the American Osler Society in 1978. Dr. Nation wrote,

"When convalescing from tuberculosis, I had time to read Cushing’s two-volume Life of Sir William Osler (it was the Pulitzer Prize winner in 1925). I had heard much about Osler and Cushing earlier when I was at Western Reserve… this biography educated me in many respects. Osler became my role model and I began to collect him, as my meager means would allow. I became interested in medical history also, in a way I might never have been otherwise. Osler’s counsels, ideals and humanism, through his writings, and those of others about him, inspire me."

Nation served as president of the American Urological Association in 1977. The AUA History Forum Award for the best paper and presentation, the AUA Earl Nation Retrospectroscope Award, was named in his honor.

One of Earl’s favorite stories was told about the two-time Nobel laureate and personal friend Linus Pauling:

The audience was becoming restive. Dr. Pauling had been dancing beautifully with his wife before the break. He sensed the impatience of the audience and, with his usual ebullience, bounded to the microphone to fill the dead air. He proceeded to calm the after-dinner audience by telling them of a somewhat recent experience on his speaking tour. He told them that he had just returned from New England where had spoken about the therapeutic value of large doses of vitamin C. Following the address, an older man had approached him to inquire whether he was taking large doses of vitamin C himself. He assured the gentleman that he was. The inquirer then apologetically asked Dr. Pauling whether he was still sexually active and whether he thought the vitamin C was helpful. When Dr. Pauling answered in the affirmative, the man asked if he could be presumptuous enough to ask when Dr. Pauling had last had sex. Pauling said he told him, glancing at his watch "about 1950." The man, taken aback, said, "that does not sound like much of a recommendation, since it has been that long." Dr. Pauling said that he responded, while taking a long look at his navy time watch: "Oh! I don’t know, it is only twenty one thirty now."

This brought the house down and Mrs. Pauling’s blushing head down on my shoulder.