The Big Six Founding Physicians of the Johns Hopkins Hospital

In our next series of book reviews, we turn our attention to The Johns Hopkins Hospital, the preeminent institution that has played, and continues to play, a defining role in Medicine. By establishing the highest standards of medical training, practice and research, the Johns Hopkins came to symbolise the ideal of modern medicine, and the gold standard for medical institutions globally.


The success of the Johns Hopkins Hospital no doubt lies in the vision of its unique philanthropic founder, but it was the blend of the personalities and skills of its original physicians that actualised his dream of a progressive and liberal centre of medical excellence. These physicians consequently became the role models for doctors all over the world.


Physician William Osler is perhaps the one founding physician of the Johns Hopkins everyone knows, and his legendary name is readily recognisable both within and outside medicine. He forms one of the quartet of the so-called four founding physicians of the hospital – along with surgeon William Halsted, pathologist William Welch, and gynaecologist Howard Kelly.


But beyond these four are two other founding physicians of the Johns Hopkins Hospital to whom history has not been kind. Anatomist Franklin Mall and psychiatrist Adolf Meyer feature prominently in every account of the Johns Hopkins, but have almost disappeared in popular accounts of the institution. Therefore, despite the iconic painting by John Singer Sargent depicting just ‘The Big Four, this series will be exploring The Big Six six founding physicians of the Johns Hopkins – with the help of these six excellent biographies.


Franklin Mall

Franklin Paine Mall
by Florence Rena Sabin


Adolf Meyer

Pathologist of the Mind
by SD Lamb


Howard Kelly

Dr. Kelly of Hopkins
by Audrey W. Davis


William Welch

William H. Welch
by Donald Fleming


William Halsted

Genius on the Edge
by Gerald Imber


William Osler

William Osler
by Michael Bliss


We will start this series next week with Franklin Mall, a genius whose working methods are poorly understood, whose influence at the Johns Hopkins is poorly appreciated, and whose impact on medical education reform is poorly acknowledged.


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