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Franklin Mall (center, with mustache) presides in the anatomy lab as Josephine Hemenway (M.D.-1904) (third from left) looks on. This c. 1900 photo is from Hemenway’s daughter’s collection.

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In the Lab With Mall

He didn’t make the famous four, but after founding physicians Osler, Halsted, Welch and Kelly, Franklin Mall, Hopkins’ first professor of anatomy, easily might have been a “famous fifth.” It was Mall who wrested the study of anatomy from collegiate departments of zoology and special anatomical schools and established it as part of the medical school curriculum. It was Mall who made sure anatomy was taught as a science on its own, not as an adjunct to such disciplines as surgery. And, finally, it was he who pressed for dissection over lecture, “a slow and stupid method of instruction.”

At Hopkins, Mall saw to it that an entire building was devoted to the study of anatomy. Built on the southeast corner of Madison and Wolfe in 1894 (and not demolished until 1979 to make way for the Preclinical Teaching Building), the three-story Anatomy Building, known officially as the Women’s Fund Memorial Building, had nine separate dissection rooms on the top floor, each with a skylight—Mall was adamant about good light. First-year students dissected the body in 22 continuous weeks, from October to March, beginning with the limbs and ending with the head.

Students worked chiefly by themselves (above) in the dissecting rooms on the third floor of the old Anatomy Building (bottom left).

Mall started the beginners on either an arm or a leg. They removed the skin on the first day, then moved on to the veins, arteries and nerves in the deep fascia and muscles. Two to six students worked on a cadaver, but dissection was largely independent with little emphasis on learning as a group. “It must be remembered however that after dissection is fairly well started each student works for himself and by himself,” Mall wrote in an 1896 Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin.

When they realized the breadth of the material they would be expected to master in a matter of months, the students understood that their spoon-fed education was over. “I have heard many a student admit that he owed to Mall’s method his intellectual awakening and his first arousal of desire to become an independent scientific worker,” wrote Lewellys F. Barker, Mall’s first assistant.