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Hopkins History Moments

Hopkins History Moments

Neil A. Grauer reveals the medical secrets of a mummy and other little-known facts from the annals of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Undoubtedly the oldest individual ever examined at Johns Hopkins was “Boris,” a 2,500-year-old Egyptian brought here for radiologic scans in May 1988. CT scans had been used on mummies before, but The Johns Hopkins Hospital was the first to employ a sophisticated computer program to enhance the images into three dimensions. Radiologist Elliot Fishman, now director of diagnostic imaging and body CT, performed the medical examination.

The images uncovered some surprising information. “Boris” was actually a woman who had lived to the relatively old age of 45 or 50 years and had likely given birth to at least two children. Although the images showed evidence of arthritis in the vertebrae at the base of her spine, her teeth were in excellent condition with only one impacted wisdom tooth and one missing molar. There is no clear indication of why she died.

For the past three decades, the mummy has been lodged at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, on a long-term loan from Goucher College.

Watch a video of the medical examination:


Neil A. Grauer is a senior writer for Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Department of Marketing and Communications and a third-generation graduate of The Johns Hopkins University. He has written three books on the history of Johns Hopkins Medicine: Centuries of Caring: The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Story (2004); Leading the Way: A History of Johns Hopkins Medicine (2012); and The Special Field: A History of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins (2015). He also has written about many other facets of the university — including its century-long history as a lacrosse powerhouse — and is the creator of the cartoon mascot for the Blue Jays, the university’s athletic teams.

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