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“The secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Associate Justice United States Supreme Court, 1841 - 1935

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was born on March 8, 1841 in Boston, Massachusetts, and was named for his famous father, the writer and physician. His keen intellect, humor, and ability to express himself helped Holmes direct American thought as a member of the United States Supreme Court for over 30 years.

At the end of his service in the American Civil War Holmes entered Harvard Law School. Early in his career he became co-editor of the “American Law Review,” a commercial legal periodical, and wrote his great work The Common-Law in 1881. In 1882 Holmes became professor of law at Harvard, and was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1899.

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the United States Supreme Court in 1902. A cornerstone of Holmes’s judicial philosophy was his opinion that, “The life of the law has not been logic, but experience.” He insisted that the court look at the facts in a changing society, instead of clinging to worn-out slogans and formulas. Holmes convinced people that the law should develop along with the society it serves. He exercised a deep influence on the law through his support of the doctrine of “judicial restraint” which urged judges to avoid letting their personal opinions affect their decisions.

If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. or related subjects, or if you would like to comment, please contact us.

Resource Menu
Books By/About Holmes

The Common Law The Common Law
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Holmes’ great legal classic covers many aspects of civil and criminal law from a historical perspective, including contracts, criminal law, liability, ownership, and torts.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Common Law

The Essential Holmes The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Richard A. Posner (Editor)

This collection of Holmes essays, speeches, letters, and legal opinions, edited by federal judge Richard Posner, reveal the inner workings of a brilliant mind.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Essential Holmes

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self
by G. Edward White

White reveals Holmes the man and presents his contribution to American jurisprudence.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
by G. Edward White

A concise biography of one of the most profound thinkers to serve on the United State Supreme Court.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

DVDs About The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court The Supreme Court
The series charts the court's unique evolution, using archival footage and innovative graphic techniques to help audiences grasp complex legal concepts. Interviews with some of the greatest legal minds in the country as well as exclusive access to the court help personalize the justices while providing context to key decisions and hot-button issues of the day.

Purchase this DVD edition of The Supreme Court

Holmes eTexts

In Our Youth Our Hearts Were Touched With Fire
Delivered for Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH

The Soldier's Faith
Delivered on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895 at Harvard University

Holmes/Pollock correspondence
Excerpts from letters between Holmes and Frederick Pollock - 1874-1932

Related Websites

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Holmes at The Supreme Court Historical Society

Holmes Gravesite
At Arlington National Cemetery

The Supreme Court Historical Society

The Supreme Court of the United States
The Official Website of the Supreme Court

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Other Jurists in the Lucidcafé Library

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