"o.w.h., a second edition," as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. -- himself a distinguished poet, novelist, physician, and college professor-called his son, was born in Boston on March 8, 1841. Eastern Massachusetts was fast becoming, at that time, a centre of American creative thought. And Holmes' home was the place remarkable persons could be seen and heard. Such were the circumstances under which young Wendell was growing.
A few years were sufficient to demonstrate, however, that the boy was anything but "a second edition" of his father. Wendell was temperamentally different, mentally independent, and somewhat stubborn in his ways. He was growing up a serious, thinking boy. Eventually he came to study at Harvard ( 1857-1861), were he made many friends and acquired a great deal of knowledge, not exactly what he was supposed to learn, but of the kind that pleased and satisfied himself. He did become, to be sure, an editor of the Harvard Magazine during his senior year.
Twelve days after the outbreak of the Civil War, young Holmes enlisted in the Union Army and was given a commission; he stayed long enough around Boston, however, to receive his A.B. in person. In three years of army life he was wounded three times, at Ball's Bluff, near Hagerstown, and at Chancellorsville. But he survived and came home to stay ( 1864) and to continue his education. For a while he hesitated whether to take up law or philosophy. He liked the latter better, but decided that the former was more practical in the long run, and enrolled for a two-year course in the Harvard Law School. This done, he passed the bar examination and became a Counsellor at Law in Boston ( 1867).
Nevertheless, Holmes still loved philosophy best. In his spare time he acquainted himself, very thoroughly, with the world history of legal philosophy. From time to time he attended meetings of the Metaphysical Club, where one could meet, among others, Abbot, James, Peirce, and Wright. In 1874 he visited England, got acquainted with quite a few well-known thinkers, and formed a life-long friendship with Frederick Pollock.
Now and then Holmes contributed articles to the Law Review,