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Cultural Affairs Trailblazer

Cultural Affairs Trailblazer

Richard Macksey connected the humanities with medicine.

Former Johns Hopkin University President Milton S. Eisenhower would say with wide-eyed wonder — and without a hint of hyperbole — “Dick Macksey knows everything.”

Generations of students in the school of medicine and on the Homewood campus readily would agree with that assessment of the extraordinary breadth of knowledge that Richard A. Macksey effortlessly displayed. Macksey (faculty, history of medicine, 1977–2009) died on July 22, 2019. He was 87.

As a professor of humanities in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, where he fostered creation of what now is the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature, Macksey co-founded with neurosurgeon George Udvarhelyi (1920–2010) the school of medicine’s Office of Cultural Affairs, a unique initiative uniting Homewood and East Baltimore.

Macksey and Udvarhelyi brought an astonishing array of internationally renowned scientists, authors, musicians and other performers to Turner Auditorium for informal “conversations.”

Macksey “really blazed a path between the two campuses that many people have been able to follow since, which draws closer together the relevance between the humanities and medicine in the 21st century,” says Jeremy Greene, director of the Institute of the History of Medicine.

Macksey once noted that composer Johannes Brahms and pioneering Viennese surgeon Theodor Billroth were good friends — adding that Billroth wisely observed: “It is one of the superficialities of our time to see in science and art two opposites. Imagination is the mother of both.”

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