History of Graduate Studies

Our Legacy as Johns Hopkins Scientists

  • John Jacob Abel (1857–1938), the father of modern pharmacology, found a natural substance — produced by the adrenal glands — that he named epinephrine. The first hormone to be identified, it remains a crucial, first line treatment for heart attacks, severe allergic reactions and other conditions.
  • Following the discovery that insulin can control diabetes, Abel purified insulin and isolated its crystalline structure. His work solved the problem of how to make the lifesaving treatment available in precise dosages.
  • Using cells from a frog, anatomist Ross Granville Harrison (1870–1959) discovered how to keep cells alive so they can be studied. Harrison's discovery of tissue culture remains a cornerstone of medical research and is essential for vaccine production, in vitro fertilization and the study of living cells.
  • The Department of Art as Applied to Medicine — the nation’s first — was founded under German artist Max Brödel (1870–1941), whose mastery of medical illustration at Johns Hopkins since 1894 had made him world-renowned. His illustrations were pivotal in the advancement of medical education.
  • Working in the laboratory of physiology director William Henry Howell (1860–1945), second-year medical student Jay McLean (1890–1957) discovered a substance in the liver that stops the blood from coagulating. The substance, which Howell named heparin (based on the ancient Greek word for liver), proved to be vital for preventing dangerous blood clots.
  • Founder of the school of medicine’s Pavlovian Laboratory, the first of its kind in the United States, W. Horsley Gantt (1892–1980) received a Lasker Award from the National Committee Against Mental Illness in recognition of his pioneering work to advance understanding of the connections between physiological functions and behavior.
  • Anatomist David Bodian (1910­–1992) and his Johns Hopkins colleagues Howard Howe and Isabel Morgan showed that the poliovirus transmitted through the mouth and digestive tract is three distinct virus types and that for a vaccine to be effective, it must include antibodies for all three.
  • Tumor tissue from Henrietta Lacks (1920–1951), a cancer patient at Johns Hopkins, was used by researcher George Gey (1899–1970) to develop the first immortal cell line. Gey distributed the cells freely to scientists worldwide, who have used them in developing polio vaccine, chemotherapy breakthroughs and landmark research on HIV, genetics, tuberculosis and more.
  • Wondering how the brain processes, perceives and responds to information gathered by the senses, Vernon Mountcastle conducted research that showed how brain cells are organized. For this and other breakthrough work in brain biology, he is hailed as “the intellectual progenitor of his field.” A 1942 graduate of the school of medicine and director of the Department of Physiology from 1964 to 1980, Mountcastle received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his discoveries that illuminated the brain’s ability to perceive and organize information, and to translate sensory impulses into behavior. In 1986, Mountcastle received the National Medal of Science.
  • Victor McKusick (1921–2008) ushered in the age of genetic medicine with comprehensive studies of the heritable disorder Marfan syndrome. Acknowledged as the father of genetic medicine, he compiled an ongoing, annotated catalog of genetically carried traits and helped lay the foundation for the Human Genome Project. A 1946 graduate of the school of medicine, McKusick received the Albert Lasker Special Achievement Award in Medical Science for his pioneering work in founding an entirely new branch of medicine called medical genetics. The award also recognized McKusick for his contributions to the discovery and description of genetically related illnesses and for identifying and mapping genes responsible for inherited conditions. In 2002, McKusick received the National Medal of Science.
  • Psychiatrist and researcher Solomon Snyder and graduate student Candace Pert demonstrated that molecules of substances such as morphine, codeine and heroin lock into specific areas on the surfaces of nerve and brain cells. Their finding launched modern research on pain relief, addiction and brain chemistry. On the faculty since 1965 and founding director of what now is the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Snyder received the National Medal of Science for his major contributions to the understanding of neurotransmitters and their receptors in the nervous system, psychoactive drug mechanisms of action and signal transduction pathways in the brain. In 1978, Snyder received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.
  • During a career spanning six decades, Leon Schlossberg (1912–1999) earned the title “dean of medical illustrators” because of his wide-ranging ability to depict surgery and anatomy. His illustrations, respected for their creativity, accuracy and ability to educate, are published in his most famous work, The Johns Hopkins Atlas of Functional Anatomy.
  • Molecular biologist Daniel Nathans (1928–1999) and microbiologist Hamilton Smith received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of restriction enzymes — “biochemical scissors” that cut at predictable sites in the letters of DNA’s chemical sequence, enabling researchers to decipher the construction and function of genes. In 1993, Nathans received the National Medal of Science.
  • A professor of molecular biology and genetics, Geraldine Seydoux is an innovative researcher whose pioneering studies of the molecular machinery of reproduction and biological development, focusing on how cells develop into a fully formed adult animal, are helping to illuminate some of the most complex processes in biology.
  • Biological chemist Peter Agre, a 1974 graduate of the school of medicine and a member of the biological chemistry faculty until 2005, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his 1991 discovery of aquaporins, the long-sought channels that regulate water molecule transport through cell membranes, a process essential for all living organisms.
  • With more than 90,000 references, five Cancer Center physicians — Bert Vogelstein, Stephen Baylin, James Herman, David Sidransky and Kenneth Kinzler — were named by ScienceWatch as the most often cited in cancer research worldwide between 1995 and 2005.
  • The Daniel Nathans Professor and director of molecular biology and genetics, pioneering researcher Carol Greider was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her 1984 discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that maintains the length and integrity of chromosome ends and is critical for the health and survival of all living cells and organisms.

125 Years of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine