Max Brödel, the noted first professional medical illustrator, came to Baltimore in the early years of Johns Hopkins Medical School. He was hired to do medical illustration for MedChi members Howard Kelly, MD, Harvey Cushing, MD, and William Halsted, MD. Later on, he branched out and worked for Sir William Osler, MD and Thomas Cullen, MD, who published a small book about his close friend.
When Kelly retired, Brödel floundered until his friend Dr. Cullen devised a strategy where Brödel would establish a medical arts department and train students in medical illustration and the medical arts. With an endowment from Baltimore philanthropist and art lover, Henry Walters, the first ever medical illustration program was opened at Hopkins. The program continues as a masters-level department and is known as the Art as Applied to Medicine Department.
An engraving was made of the drawing and it’s currently being used as the seal for MedChi and appears on our business cards, stationery and in many other places. What’s interesting is that the sketch of the seal is dated 1911, but the engraving of the seal is dated 1930.
But Brödel’s association with MedChi doesn’t end there. He also provided illustrations for bookplates for a number of special book funds. The plates are incredible in their detail, especially when you realize that for the first half of the 1900’s, there was no mechanism to shrink or expand illustrations, and that the engraving plates had to be life-size, which meant about 3 x 4.5 inches.
Brödel’s illustration for the Osler Fund includes the crests for the four schools with which he was closely associated: Penn, McGill, Hopkins and Oxford. The figure is probably Hippocrates and the Rod of Asclepius appears twice. The plate is signed just above the Oxford crest.
For Dr. Cullen, who was one of his best friends, the bookplate is illustrated with an image of Hopkins’ distinct dome and its location at the crest of a hill. It shows Dr. Cullen at his microscope with his books behind him. The crests are possibly Toronto University on the left and Johns Hopkins on the right. On the bottom of the plate is an illustration of Cullen’s lakefront camp in Canada, where Brödel also had a camp. Dr. Cullen was originally from Canada, as was Sir William Osler. In Dr. Cullen’s book, he mentions this bookplate, saying “the theme was arranged by Mrs. Cullen and Max”.
One of the pieces in MedChi’s collection is the original illustration for the bookplate for John Ruhräh, MD. What’s particularly interesting about this piece is the original notes which have been written on the illustration, working out which font to use and the size, whether the quotation is a little morbid and dreary and what the titles of the books on the shelves should say.
Another plate that Brödel illustrated was for the noted physician Dr. J.M.T. Finney, who was instrumental in establishing Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. We know less about this plate than the others but it’s fascinating nevertheless. All of the characters are there – Hippocrates, the Rod of Asclepius, Death with his scythe,
Max Brödel was made an honorary member of the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland in 1909, the first and only layman to be accorded this honor.
To read Dr. Cullen’s small book about his friend Max Brödel, please click here.