Elinor Bodian (Baltimore Sun / September 28, 2011)

Elinor W. Bodian, who worked as a medical illustrator at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for 40 years and was also an abstract painter, died Sept. 16 of heart disease at her Roland Park Place home.

She was 90.

The daughter of a mechanical engineer and a quality-control manager, she was born Elinor Widmont and raised on her family's farm in Dayton, Ohio.

After graduating from Fairview High School in 1939, she began her nursing studies at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing.

"A professor noticed the detailed drawings she was making next to her notes," said a daughter, Brenda J. Bodian of Stoneleigh. "He introduced her to a staff medical illustrator in the university's surgical department who encouraged her to apply to the School of Arts as Applied to Medicine at Johns Hopkins University."

Ms. Bodian said her mother described the experience as "life-changing, as she had no idea such a profession existed, but it proved to be an excellent match for her talents."

The department at Hopkins was founded in 1911 by Max Broedel, a German-born artist, who has been acknowledged as the father of medical illustration.

"Elinor had met Max Broedel, who died in 1941," said Gary P. Lees, chairman of the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine and director of the master's program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But she studied under James Didusch and Ranice W. Crosby."

Mrs. Bodian was a certified medical illustrator when she graduated in 1944.

"She was very adept with the pen and the pencil, and her illustrations were filled with lovely tones and very attractive and authentic," said Mr. Lees. "Also, by the 1940s, the quality of medical textbooks had improved, and she was certainly one of the best illustrators."

While a student, Mrs. Bodian worked for Dr. Richard Wesley TeLinde, who had been chairman of the gynecology department at the Hopkins medical school. She illustrated his work, "Operative Gynecology," which has been called "the bible" of gynecology.

Mrs. Bodian worked on the text's revisions through the sixth edition, which was published in the 1980s.

"She found surgery very interesting but wrote that 'neurology stole my imagination,''' said her daughter, Ms. Bodian.

Over the years, she worked for various neurologists at Hopkins, including Dr. Vernon Mountcastle.

Through her 40-year career, Mrs. Bodian illustrated a wide variety of medical subjects. In addition to gynecology and obstetrics, those subjects included hematology, surgical nursing, the inner ear, neurology, neurophysiology and the first-seen poliomyelitis virus.

In addition, she also illustrated a movie on embryo movements, and continued to remain connected to the department until she was well into her 80s.

During the 1970s, she did courtroom drawings for WBAL-TV and NBC-TV.

"I remember when she was doing freelance medical illustration at home and my friends would come over and freak out because there floating on a table in a bottle of formaldehyde would be a brain she was drawing," Ms. Bodian said with a laugh. "For us, that was perfectly normal."

"Elinor was always an enthusiastic illustrator and a true Hopkins alumnae. She had been so proud that she had been a student at Hopkins," said Mr. Lees, who added that she worked in the department's archives in recent years, assisting in the archiving of artwork.

"She also continued to meet and encourage our students," he said. "She also endowed a scholarship in her name — the Elinor Widmont Bodian Scholarship in Medical Art."