Edward H. Bloch, M.D., Ph.D.: Pioneer in the microscopic study of and the microcirculation of living tissues and organs


Edward H. Bloch, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Anatomy at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, died November 3, 2000 in Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 86. Known to his friends as “Maxl,” he will be greatly missed by his friends, colleagues, and former students.

Figure 1.

Edward H. Bloch, M.D., Ph.D.

Maxl was born February 1, 1914 in Berlin, Germany. After WWI he immigrated with his parents to the United States where they established residence in Chicago, Illinois. Maxl earned his B.Sc. degree in 1939 from the University of Chicago and his M.D. degree from the University of Tennessee in 1945. Subsequently, he interned at Michael Reese Hospital during 1945–46, and then completed a Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago in 1949. From 1950–55, Maxl was an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association. He joined the faculty of the Department of Anatomy at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1952 as an Assistant Professor and rose to the rank of Professor. Throughout much of his teaching career, Maxl taught gross anatomy to freshman medical students, who often applauded his lectures. From 1980 to 1982, he served as the Acting Chairman of the Department of Anatomy before retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1984.

Maxl received international recognition for his pioneering research studying the circulation of blood through microscopic blood vessels. His contributions to the field of microvascular research are extensive and span a period of more than 40 years beginning in Melvin H. Knisely's laboratory in the late 1930s. The first motion picture documentation of the pathophysiology of “sludging” was recorded by Maxl and Knisely from the in vivo microscopic study of the microcirculation in animals infected with malaria (Knisely et al., 1945, 1947). Maxl was also a major participant in Knisely's classic studies of the hepatic microcirculation and selective phagocytosis (Knisely et al., 1948).

After World War II, Maxl pioneered studies of human microcirculation in various disease states; these studies culminated in the publication of a definitive monograph on the microcirculation in the human bulbar conjunctiva in health and disease (Bloch, 1956). Subsequently, he pioneered the use of high-speed cinephotomicrography in analyzing cellular flow in the microvasculature (Bloch, 1962, 1968). He was among the first to use closed-circuit video techniques in studying the microcirculation and transendothelial exchange (Bloch, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1973). Maxl, together with his student, Robert S. McCuskey, also developed the basic methodology for high-resolution in vivo microscopy of a variety of organs including lung, liver, and spleen (Bloch and McCuskey, 1966, 1977; McCuskey, 1966). He used these techniques to study a variety of disease processes (Bloch, 1980, 1984; Bloch et al., 1975), as well as in trying to define “functional units” in tissues and organs (Bloch, 1970; Bloch and Iberall, 1982).

It should be noted that Maxl was one of the organizing, founding fathers of the Microcirculatory Society and served as its first president in 1954. Most of the first ten Microcirculatory Conferences were held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the AAA, which helped fund the initial meeting in Galveston, Texas, in 1954. Maxl was a highly active contributor to the Society in its formative years; only in later years was his participation limited.

Until the past year, Maxl remained active in both teaching and scholarly activities. He was an avid reader and collector of books, a Past President of the Cleveland Medical Library Association, the Handerson Medical History Society, and the Rowfant Club, a literary club in Cleveland. A memorial service for him was held on Wednesday, November 15, 2000, in the Amasa Stone Chapel, Case Western Reserve University.

On a personal note: I first met Maxl in early 1959 when he employed me as a part-time technician in his laboratory while I was completing my undergraduate studies. I found his innovative use of optical microscopes, together with both electronic and photographic imaging systems, to study the microcirculation in living animals both fascinating and exciting—it stimulated me to pursue a doctoral degree in his laboratory. This experience, and our mutual scientific interests, coupled with Maxl's infectious, quiet enthusiasm for his research, as well as his thoughtful philosophy of science and life, have been the basis of our long-lasting, close relationship for more than 40 years. He was my teacher, my mentor, my colleague, and my friend. I will miss him very much.