Monday, January 23, 2017

Tom Cullen of Baltimore

Over the weekend, I read the book "Tom Cullen of Baltimore" by Judith Robinson. It's a semi-autobiography of Dr. Thomas S. Cullen (1868-1953), who studied gynecology under Dr. Howard Kelly at Johns Hopkins, arriving in Baltimore in 1891. The book was written in 1946, several years before Cullen's death. 

Before serving as the gyn resident under Dr. Kelly, Cullen spent three years in the pathology lab, studying various gynecological tissues and learning about the causes of diseases which affected women. He was a prolific writer, publishing four academic texts, numerous articles, and several monographs, including one on the history of MedChi and one on his close friend, Max Broedel, who engraved Cullen's bookplate. 

As I said, the book is semi-autobiographical, featuring long passages and personal anecdotes from Dr. Cullen. After he reached Hopkins' mandatory retirement age of 70, Dr. Cullen was active in Baltimore and around Maryland. Among other things, he chaired the Pratt Library for ten years, was the head of the Maryland State Health Commission and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. In the 1940's, he advocated for oystermen to farm oysters, and even conducted a pilot project for 10 years. 

Cullen lived most of his life in Baltimore in the Mount Vernon section of the city. One passage in the book reflected his love of the city (and mine as well!). 
Charles Street in certain lights can revert. The sky clears after a storm, the day thins and recedes. Along Charles Street, Baltimore is again the Baltimore Tom Cullen knew in youth; the town whose portrait is engraved in old prints, withdrawing in mannerly perspective before the eye of the beholder, accepting with happy serenity of the well-proportioned the homage of regard. It was so, coming to Eager Street on a remembered evening. 
New snow on the sills and cornices laid soft-edged accents below and above the ordered rows of lighted windows. The west was blue-green over the gas lamps of the climbing cross streets, the east pale with reflected brightness. Against it on the far hilltop a dome showed - small and dark beyond the balustrade of Mount Vernon Place and the lines of lights falling away and lifting again - the lanterned dome of Johns Hopkins. Tom Cullen broke a silence that was long for him.
"I love this old town," he said.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Meg, After some of the other medical bookplates you posted, I was afraid to focus in on Dr. Cullen's! When I fist came to Taiwan, I did editing work for a gynecologist who published his research, so I was able to confuse people by telling them I had an appointment with my gynecologist.

    The passages you quote about Dr. Cullen reveal how his work for the cutting edge of Baltimore's future was rooted in his love for its past. This theme is common in the stories of many cities' leading citizens.