The Johns Hopkins Gazette: August 5, 2002
August 5, 2002
VOL. 31, NO. 41


Obituary: Owsei Temkin, 99, World-Renowned Expert on History of Medicine

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Owsei Temkin, former director of the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins and William H. Welch Professor Emeritus, died on July 18. He was 99 and lived in North Baltimore.

Temkin, a physician, was one of the world's foremost experts on the history of medicine and on the role of medical science in culture and society. Throughout his career, he was actively engaged in interpreting the science and art of medicine, both classical and modern.

"I remember Dr. Temkin for his wisdom, his vast knowledge and ready laugh," says former student Gert H. Brieger, a professor in the Department of History of Science, Medicine and Technology and a longtime friend and colleague of Temkin's. "His scholarship, kindness and modesty served as a model for us in the department."

Temkin was born Oct. 6, 1902, in Minsk, Russia, and emigrated with his parents to Leipzig, Germany, in 1905. He received his medical degree in 1927 from the University of Leipzig, where he also studied history of medicine. In 1932, he joined the faculty of the Institute of the History of Medicine at Hopkins, where he was director and William H. Welch Professor from 1958 to 1968.

"Temkin was a great educator," Brieger says. "He was captivating in the classroom, but he was so effective because the students sensed the great respect Tempkin held for his pupils."

Temkin was author of hundreds of articles on the history of medicine, and he wrote a dozen books. His most recent book, "On Second Thought" and Other Essays in the History of Medicine and Science, was published this year by the Johns Hopkins University Press. A widely recognized scholar, Temkin was elected to the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He was president of the American Association for the History of Medicine, and from 1948 to 1968 he was editor of The Bulletin of the History of Medicine, aided by his lifelong collaborator, assistant editor and wife, the late C. Lilian Temkin.

Temkin was the recipient of numerous awards, including the History of Science Society's Sarton Medal and the Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in the Humanities, awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies.

Temkin is survived by two daughters, Ann Josephson Temkin and Judith Temkin Irvine.

There was no formal funeral service, but in honor of Temkin's 100th birthday, the faculty of the Department of the History of Science, Medicine and Technology and invited scholars will hold a memorial and symposium in his honor on Oct. 5.

Related Web Sites
'Owsei Temkin: The Man Who Knew Welch,' from 'Hopkins Medical News'