Dr. Anne B. McKusick, a Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center rheumatologist who worked on the atomic bomb project during World War II, died Sept. 17 of heart failure at her home at Blakehurst retirement community in Towson.
She was 95.
“She had quite an amazing career, I’d say, and made many contributions,” said Dr. David Lee Valle, director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine and professor of pediatrics and ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine.
“She was a nuclear physicist before she became a doctor, and she was an advocate for the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” said Dr. Clair A. Francomano, a geneticist who since 2005 has been a member of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center’s Harvey Institute of Human Genetics.
“Anne had an insightful and inquisitive mind,” she said. “She really lived life to the fullest and was always so engaged with her friends.”
Anne Bishop, the daughter of Fred Margeson Bishop, a physicist who had been director of research and development for the Eastman Kodak Co., and Grace Common Bishop, was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y.
After graduating from Monroe High School in Rochester, she attended McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1944 from Cornell University.
During World War II, she worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which developed the atomic bomb.
“For about a week after our arrival, we were in a kind of a study where we were trained to secrecy. We were told how important it was to the whole war effort that we not be talking. This was really drilled in,” Dr. McKusick said in an interview for Manhattan Project Voices, an oral history, for the Atomic Heritage Foundation.
Dr McKusick told the interviewer that “we were really horrified” when they learned an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.
“I think the fact that ... the extent of the damage wasn’t really known initially, I suppose we thought, ‘This is what we’ve been working for,’ ” she said. “We were terribly anxious to have our project completed before Germany did something that outdid it, or Japan. We weren’t so aware of the possibility of ... being scooped by the Japanese as we were by the Germans.”
At the end of the war, Dr. McKusick decided to leave the field of physics and pursue a career in medicine, where she felt she could make a greater contribution in research.
In order to apply to medical school at Hopkins, she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley to take such required courses as biology and comparative anatomy and zoology.
She then enrolled at Hopkins, where she earned her medical degree in 1950.
As a fourth-year medical student, she met and fell in love with a young Hopkins medical student, Dr. Victor Almon McKusick, whom she married in 1949.
Her husband, who was known as the “Father of Medical Genetics,” died in 2008.
She completed her internship and residency at Hopkins and had a trainee fellowship under the Arthritis Foundation from 1954 to 1962.
From 1954 to 1982, Dr. McKusick was a specialist in rheumatology at the old Baltimore City Hospitals, which became Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where she also played a role in the establishment of the arthritis clinics.
During her career, Dr. McKusick completed extensive research from 1958 to 1961 in clinical and metabolic studies of the shoulder-hand syndrome among tuberculosis patients, and from 1961 to 1964 in bacterial studies of paranasal sinuses in rheumatoid arthritis.
From 1969 until her retirement in 1993, she was an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
“I had been a medical student at Hopkins and a mentee of her husband, with whom I also had a professional relationship. I got to know Anne 46 years ago during summers at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, where Victor lectured. We used to drive there together,” Dr. Francomano recalled.
“I was invited to their home many times and was a recipient of her hospitality during those years. She was an exquisite hostess and an entertaining conversationalist,” she said.
“Anne was also interested in her husband’s work. At Jackson Laboratory lectures, she always sat in the front row taking notes. We considered her an honorary geneticist,” Dr. Francomano said.
“She was a warm and gracious person and always at Victor’s side. And even though he went on to great prominence, I don’t think that would have happened without Anne. She brought out the best in him,” Dr. Valle said.
“She was always upbeat, positive and supportive of our genetic group at Hopkins, and we sought her counsel. I always enjoyed seeing and talking with her,” he said. “After Victor passed away, you would have thought that after 60 years, she had had enough of genetics, but she continued coming to our meetings.”
Dr. McKusick lived for 41 years on Northway in Guilford before moving to the Towson retirement community in 2005.
“At Blakehurst, she maintained a flower garden so there would be fresh flowers for the dining room. She organized a genetics lecture and a French club. She loved French,” Dr. Francomano said.
For 90 years, Dr. McKusick enjoyed spending summers at a family home in Auburn, Nova Scotia, which had been built in 1809 and had been in her family since 1841.
She also liked gardening, entertaining family and friends at dinner parties, and reading.
Dr. McKusick was a longtime member and elder of Second Presbyterian Church.
“Raising children and meeting so many interesting people, together with the joy of clinical practice and teaching has made my life richly rewarding,” Dr. McKusick said in a Hopkins biographical sketch.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at her church, 4200 St. Paul St. She will be buried Oct. 13 in Pingree Cemetery in Parkman, Maine, next to her husband, family members said.
Dr. McKusick is survived by two sons, Kenneth A. McKusick of Towson and the Rev. Victor W. McKusick of Herkimer, N.Y.; a daughter, Carol A. McKusick of Urbana, Ill.; a sister, Cecily Carman of Rochester; and 10 nieces and nephews.