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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

By Jackie Powder

In February, the Johns Hopkins community lost two men who personified the University’s ideals and taught generations of students: Carl Taylor, MD, DrPH, MPH, the founding chair of the Department of International Health and a champion of marginalized populations in the developing world, and M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman, PhD, an internationally respected expert in river science, water resources management and environmental education who served on the Engineering faculty at Hopkins for more than 50 years.

Taylor, 93, died on February 4 from prostate cancer. Wolman, 85, died on February 24.

Born to medical missionaries in India, Carl Taylor helped to establish international health as a distinct academic field and conducted research in 70 countries.

“Carl was a pioneer and strong proponent throughout his exceptional career for the importance of community-based primary health care and the empowerment of women to achieve equitable health outcomes,” says Robert Black, MD, MPH, chair of International Health and the Edgar Berman Professor in International Health.

Taylor, who earned his medical degree from Harvard, began his career as a boy of 7, serving as a pharmacist assistant in his parents’ oxcart-based clinic in the Indian jungles. In 1949, he conducted the first health survey of Nepal, then the most-closed country in Asia. His Harvard doctoral dissertation provided the seminal research that defined the relationship between nutrition and infection, a cornerstone of public health.

Taylor joined the Bloomberg School in 1961 as the founding chair of the Department of International Health, which he led for 23 years. From 1960 to 1975, he led the Narangwal Rural Health Research Project in northern India, achieving advances in diagnosis and treatment of childhood pneumonia and neonatal tetanus, and delivery of medical care to villages. From 1984 to 1987, he was China Representative for UNICEF. Taylor published more than 190 peer-reviewed journal articles, books, chapters and policy monographs, and was awarded several honorary degrees. In 1993, President Bill Clinton recognized him for “sustained work to protect children around the world in especially difficult circumstances and a lifetime commitment to community-based primary care.”

M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman served as director of the School’s Environmental Health Engineering Division (formerly the Department of Sanitary Engineering) from 1997 to 2004. Wolman’s scholarship led to a modern understanding of how rivers evolve over time and shape the landscape. His 1964 book, Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology, written with Luna B. Leopold and John Miller, remains the definitive work in the field.

“Reds was a fantastic individual who was passionate about bridging engineering and public health to help solve the world’s water problems,” says Kellogg J. Schwab, PhD, MS, associate professor in Environmental Health Sciences and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Water and Health. Wolman was “a true renaissance academician who felt strongly about the need for public service and helping those in need, both in the U.S. and around the world,” says Schwab, who was recruited to the Bloomberg School by Wolman.

Wolman’s father, Abel Wolman, pioneered the chlorination process for public water supplies and was a longtime Hopkins faculty member who founded and chaired the School’s then-Department of Sanitary Engineering.