February 7, 2011

Harry Marks, historian of medicine, dies at 64

Harry M. Marks, an associate professor in the History of Medicine Department at the School of Medicine and the Elizabeth Treide and A. McGehee Harvey Professor of Medical History since 1989, died at his home in Baltimore on Jan. 25 of prostate cancer. He was 64.

Author of The Progress of Experiment: Science and Therapeutic Reform in the United States, 1900–1990 and numerous articles, Marks was an internationally recognized authority on the history of 20th-century medicine, clinical trials and public health.

In addition, his wide-ranging scholarly interests and breadth of knowledge made him an active participant in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ departments of History, Anthropology and History of Science and Technology, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, where he held joint appointments.

Colleagues and students remember him for his critical questioning, insistence on scholarly excellence and generous sharing of his expansive bibliographic knowledge. More than 100 colleagues, friends, students and admirers from across the United States, Canada and Europe attended a celebration in his honor in October. Colleagues say that Marks, though ill at the time, engaged energetically in the panel discussions, providing a wonderful memory for all who attended.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Marks graduated from Hofstra University in 1968 and spent his formative years as a scholar at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received a master’s degree in 1972 and conducted research toward a doctorate in French history. For the rest of his life, he identified with the strong intellectual counterculture of early-’70s Madison.

His medical interest developed in and around greater Boston, where from 1969 to 1971 he had worked as a medical orderly as an alternative to military service. From 1974 until 1987, he taught and conducted research in medical education and health policy at several schools in the Cambridge, Mass., area, including Tufts and Harvard. At Harvard, he was an instructor in the School of Public Health from 1981 to 1987 and in the School of Medicine from 1982 to 1987. He was a Rockefeller Fellow at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Francis Wood Institute in 1986–1987 and in 1987 received a doctorate in political science from MIT.

Marks came to Johns Hopkins in 1987 as a research fellow at the Institute of the History of Medicine and joined the faculty in 1989 as an assistant professor and the Elizabeth Treide and A. McGehee Harvey Professor in the History of Medicine. He was promoted to associate professor in 1996.

He is survived by a daughter, Irina Spector-Marks; his companion, Christine Ruggere; a family friend, Eszter Sapi; and two brothers, Jason Marks and Tim Ames.

Contributions in his memory may be sent to American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102. A memorial lunch was held Feb. 5 at the Institute of the History of Medicine.