Dr. William Blake, UM School of Medicine professor

William D. Blake

Dr. William Dewey Blake, a retired University of Maryland School of Medicine professor who was chairman of the department of physiology, died of cancer Sunday at his Bath, Maine, home. The former Bolton Hill resident was 94.

Born in Summit, N.J., and raised in New Haven, Conn., he was the son of Dr. Francis Blake, Yale University's department of medicine chairman who was also an internist. His mother, Dorothy Blake, was a homemaker.

After graduating from the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, he earned a degree at Dartmouth College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. According to a family biography, he spent his summers conducting research at the Mount Desert Island Biological Lab in Salisbury Cove, Maine.

Dr. Blake continued this work while attending Harvard Medical School until World War II. During the conflict, he conducted malaria research at Goldwater Hospital in New York City. He completed his internship, residency and a fellowship at Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

He was then invited to join the Yale Medical School's department of physiology and was later associate professor at the University of Oregon Medical School.

Dr. Blake's second interest was oil painting. In the 1950s, he exhibited his works at the Portland Museum of Art. While in Europe, as he did medical research and wrote papers, he showed his paintings in London and Rome.

He moved to Baltimore in 1960 to become chairman and professor at the department of physiology at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine.

He initially lived in Roland Park but soon found a house in the 1200 block of Bolton St. that contained four apartments. He supervised contractors restoring the home and returned it to a single-family residence.

He worked alongside his wife, the former Mary Anderson, on the renovation project. She was a Baltimore Museum of Art volunteer and library worker at Evergreen, the John Work Garrett home.

Dr. Blake continued painting while in Baltimore, working in a corner of the house. He showed his paintings to friends but did not exhibit them publicly.

"He was a perfect gentleman and a delightful person," said Barbara Scherlis, a friend who lives in Baltimore. "I admired him enormously. He was a moral, ethical man who worked in basic science and backed up all the medical work done at Maryland. He was an essential part of the medical school."

Mrs. Scherlis, whose husband, Leonard, was a University of Maryland cardiologist, recalled Dr. Blake's paintings: "They were full-color works that tended toward abstraction," she said. "They were not pictorial. He was a good scientist and a creative artist.

"His paintings showed an exuberance that came out of a quiet man," she said. "He expressed in his painting an inner joy of life."

While at the University of Maryland, Dr. Blake was invited to lecture in London and Prague. He also conducted research at Uppsala University in Sweden and worked in Curitiba, Brazil, where he established a physiology research program at a medical school.

"He always led and supported his staff in their research and teaching," said his son, Dr. Will Blake, a retired physician and chief of staff at Bath Memorial Hospital. "He encouraged students to learn physiology and from that understanding develop problem-solving skills to help in their research and clinical studies."

His son said his father set up alternative learning paths in the department of physiology.

"One path was a straight lecture, another was a research path and a third was a clinical one where you examined patients and their charts, and came back and explained to the professor the pathophysiology of their disease," said his son.

His son said his father's major area of interest was the physiology of the kidney.

"He did some of the earliest and foundational research in the neural control of the kidney," his son said. "He developed techniques which helped elucidate some of the basic principles in the renin-angiotensin system of the kidney."

In his free time, Dr. Blake was an enthusiastic sailor and kept a boat at the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron. He sailed the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast to Bar Harbor, Maine.

No service is planned.

In addition to his son and his wife of 72 years, survivors include a daughter, Pamela Blake of Freeport, Maine; five grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun