Posted on January 27th, 2014 by Rachel
Bookplate designed for Dr. Julius Friedenwald, son of Aaron. The inscription reads “The words of the wise are healing.”
Collection of MedChi.
In 1799, Paris was the place to get a modern medical education, inoculation against smallpox was finally gaining widespread acceptance (having first been discovered nearly fifty years earlier), most drugs were made from herbs, and Marylanders usually tended their sick at home, sometimes with the help of a doctor. Also in 1799, as new ideas about health and medicine were percolating throughout the western world, the Medical and Chirurgical [surgical] Faculty of Maryland was organized in an attempt to regulate and support the medical profession throughout the state. One of a handful of such societies in the United States at the time, its papers of incorporation stated its mission to “prevent the citizens (of Maryland) from risking their lives in the hands of ignorant practitioners or pretenders to the healing art.”
Dr. Abram B. Arnold, c. 1890.
Collection of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding.
Now known as MedChi: The Maryland State Medical Society, the 215-year-old association—celebrating its anniversary this week—has notched some significant achievements. MedChi directors founded Maryland’s first medical school (1807), the world’s first college of dental surgery in the country (1839), and a school of pharmacy (1857)—all are now part of the University of Maryland.
Entrance to MedChi’s headquarters, built in 1909.
Image courtesy of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding.
While this is very impressive, its trove of state medical history is the source of its interest to the JMM. Collections of medical instruments, portraits of board members and other Maryland physicians, antique medical journals, and the papers of the Society are housed in its early 20th century campus in mid-town Baltimore. JMM Curator Karen Falk and Board Member Dr. Robert Keehn were lucky enough to visit behind the scenes at MedChi last week for a first-hand look at these riches.
Dr. Joshua I. Cohen, c. 1865.
Image courtesy of MedChi.
Three early Jewish physicians in Baltimore were among the directors of MedChi: Joshua I. Cohen, a member of one of Baltimore’s earliest Jewish families, was an ear specialist, audiologist of some renown, and president of MedChi in 1857-58; Abram B. Arnold received his MD from the Washington University Hospital of Baltimore (the hospital where Edgar Allen Poe died, later known as Church Home and Hospital) around 1850, published a Manual of Nervous Disorders in 1855, and served as president of MedChi in 1877-78; and ophthalmologist Aaron Friedenwald, a University of Maryland Medical School graduate (1860), Jewish communal activist, and president of MedChi 1880-90. There is even an “Aaron Friedenwald Room” in the current MedChi building, complete with portrait, dedication plaque, and personal objects from the Friedenwald family.
Dr. Aaron Friedenwald, c. 1900.
Collection of the JMM; photograph by Shelby Silvernell.
Aaron Friedenwald, his sons Edgar, Julius and Harry, and grandson Jonas formed a dynasty of physicians in Baltimore that will play an important role in our upcoming exhibition on “Jews, Health and Healing,” planned to open in fall 2015. Many thanks to Meg Fielding at MedChi for taking us on a tour of the collections, providing images for this post, and for responding enthusiastically to our exhibition project.
Library stacks of the MedChi archives.
Image courtesy of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding
A blog post by curator Karen Falk. To read more posts by Karen, click HERE.
Posted on September 11th, 2013 by Rachel
A casual reader of these blog posts might think we’ve grown obsessive about the Civil War. It is certainly true that our upcoming exhibit (member’s preview on October 12 at 7:30) has occupied many hours of staff and intern time – researching, writing, designing, fundraising, marketing and more. And I think all of us have gotten more engaged and intrigued by the topic as we have understood it better.
Still all of us have other interests. In my case, I am keeping one eye on ophthalmology. This is not only because I am scheduled to have cataract surgery next week, but also because of a prominent role of one particular family of eye doctors in our plans for the 2015 exhibit Jews, Health and Healing.
Jonas Friedenwald, the progenitor, 1875.
The Friedenwald family included three generations of Baltimore ophthalmologists whose work and interests influenced much more than the field of medicine. Dr. Aaron Friedenwald (1836-1902), Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1864-1950) and Dr. Jonas Stein Friedenwald (1897-1955). The progenitor of this medical dynasty was none other than the Jonas Friedenwald who served as one of the original Board members of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and led the faction that broke away to create Chizuk Amuno. It is a genuine American Jewish success story that this former umbrella mender and junk dealer would become the patriarch of generations of healers.
Dr. Harry Friedenwald
A special focus of the exhibit will be the middle generation – Dr. Harry Friedenwald. Harry, whose sesquicentennial is September 21st of next year, spent much of his career as a professor at the University of Maryland Medical School. He was a well-published scholar, completing some pioneering work on the connections between diabetes and eye disease. But the most important reason we have chosen to shine a light on Harry Friedenwald is for his work as a collector.
Diploma of medicine awarded to Lazarus de Mordis. Padua, 1699.
Potential loan from the Friedenwald Collection, National Library of Israel.
According to several sources, Harry was inspired by a lecture his father gave in 1897 entitled, “Jewish Physicians and the Contributions of the Jews to the Science of Medicine”. From that point forward, Harry began to acquire one of the largest collections of material on this topic ever assembled in the United States. His library included the codex of a 10th century Italian Jewish physician, Sabbato Donnolo, describing over 120 medicinal plants known at that time. There is also 15th century translation of the original Arabic manuscripts of the 9th century Jewish physician to the Caliph as well as 15th century Latin translations of the work of Maimonides. There are astronomical and astrological tables of Jewish origin from the early renaissance. It includes the writings of Francisco Lopez de Villalobos, the Jewish-born converso who served as court physician to King Ferdinand (and I’m sure this is just a coincidence) was one of the first authors to describe the causes of syphilis. And there is the writing of Jacob Mantino ben Samuel, a refugee from the Inquisition who became a physician to Pope Clement VII after nixing biblical nullification for the marriage of Henry VIII to Queen Catherine (you can bet I will be pursuing this story).
Baltimore People at Zionist Conference. Tannersville, New York – 1906 or 1907. Harry Friedenwald is located in the center of the middle row.
So what happened to Harry’s collection? All three generations of Friedenwald doctors were active in the Zionist movements of their times. Harry helped establish the medical care system in Palestine during the period just before World War I. In 1948, Harry gave his entire collection of manuscripts to the newly formed National Library of Israel.
As we began to prepare for our exhibit we contacted the Library. They have given us agreement in principle to return a small number of works to Baltimore for inclusion in this project. We couldn’t be more excited.
The extraordinary story of the Friedenwalds and the collection also has us thinking about the “why” behind the Jewish connection with the healing arts and sciences, not only physicians, but pharmacists, nurses, medical researchers, etc. So we would like to hear your stories. If you or someone you are close too is in the healing professions we’d like to learn about how that choice of occupation was made – what role did parental or family expectations, financial needs, Jewish learning or other factors play in this decision. If you have a story you’d like to share send us a note. You can respond to this blog post or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We now take you back to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War…which is still in progress.
A blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts by Marvin, click here.