Weight Not Measured in Pounds: “Fischerisms.”

By Nathan Hood

Fischer 1912 Faculty Photo

Dr. Martin H. Fischer, faculty photo from 1912.

Scientist, professor, author, artist – at the time of his death in 1962, the wealth of Dr. Martin H. Fischer’s experiences had him regarded by some to be a kind of ‘universal man.’ Who was Dr. Martin H. Fischer? The overwhelming prevalence of dates, research, and other such facts are often too impersonal and superficial to reveal much about the deeper character of this impressive person. Fortunately, there still exist copies of a booklet too ironically and deceptively inconspicuous for the enormous significance of the information it contains: Fischerisms.

Fischerisms is a compilation of Dr. Fischer’s various aphorisms first brought together by Howard Fabing with the aid of Albert Flagge and first published by the Medical College Bookstore, University of Cincinnati, in 1930.

Title and inside title page

Cover and inside title page of the first edition of Fischerisms, published in 1930.
This picture serves as a link to a scanned, online copy of the book.

Fabing's 'letter'

Fabing addresses Dr. Fischer at the beginning of the first edition (page 3-5).

Page 7

Page 7 of Fischerisms (first edition) –
the first page with aphorisms.

The fischerisms of this hand-held book seem to be listed randomly or otherwise perhaps loosely grouped by topic. Even in the second edition of Fischerisms, the organization of aphorisms appears idiosyncratic.

The second and enlarged edition of Fischerisms was published in 1937 by The Science Press Printing Company. This edition was primarily effectuated by Robert Marr with the acknowledged help of Flagge as well as Elsie Krug, Victor Strauss, J. P. Wozencraft, and Albert Weyman. Like Fabing, Marr also addresses Dr. Fischer in this edition; his ‘letter’ follows a copy of Fabing’s from the first edition.

While many of the added aphorisms in the second edition are interspersed among those of the first, it is perhaps significant that the first and last fischerisms remain consistent in both editions.

"Winged Bull of St. Luke"

Close-up. “Winged Bull of St. Luke” was restored in celebration by the class of 1947. This photo serves as a link to the blog, “The Stained Glass Windows of Dr. Martin H. Fischer’s Lecture Hall.”

“Observation, Reason, Human Understanding, Courage; these make the physician.” – the first aphorism of both editions was also part of the stained glass installations of Dr. Fischer’s old physiology lecture hall.

“When I tell you to lead the inner life, I am trying to express these words of the poet: ‘If I had but one loaf of bread / I would sell half, / To buy white hyacinths / To feed my soul.’” – the last is perhaps the best example that expresses Dr. Fischer’s spirit.

Interestingly, both editions also have the same caricature cartoon of Dr. Fischer as the frontispiece. The cartoon is most probably by Edward F. Mottern or Alsfelder and shows Dr. Fischer as an artist:

Caricature of Dr. Fischer

Close-up. The frontispiece of both Fischerisms editions.
“Soap in water” seems to be an inside joke.
Notice also the flower in his left lapel.

Both editions of Fischerisms are not only a testament of his students’ intense devotion but a record of his commentary on the philosophy of medicine. The book shows how he was viewed, but also how he taught and by extension, who he was as an individual.

Fischer, Martin-Cecil Striker Note with Caricature

Note written by Dr. Cecil Striker accompanying the original caricature:
“Martin Fischer – Prof Physiology.
Probably the most inspiring professor.
Did not teach much physiology but was very provocative and a thrilling experience to be taught by him. All students were devote[d] to him.”

“His classroom lectures were unique; at times he stood at the lectern and occasionally paced back in forth in front of his display of Cantagalli Pharmacy Jars, with the ever-present flower in his left lapel, the filtered light casting weird shadows through the stained glass windows of the classroom, his somewhat ill-fitting dentures needing frequent adjustment—all this on a backdrop to his world of wisdom culled from years of experience in and out of medicine.”

– Dr. Busam from “Memories” (about the Medical College Class of 1953)

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