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ABEL WOLMAN June 10, 1892-February 22, 1989 BY M. GORDON WOLMAN IN THEIR PAPER PUBElSHED in ~ 9 ~ 9 Abe! Wolman and Linn EnsIow, employees of the Marylancl Department of Public Health, clemonstratecl a method for controllecl chlorination of drinking water supplies that transformer! water treatment, providing safe drinking water throughout the worIcI. A founcling member of the Water Pollution Control Fecleration (now the Water Environment Fecleration), president of the American Water Works Association, en cl president of the American Public Health Association, Abel Wolman was a major contributor not only in the science and engineering of sanitation, pollution control, en cl water resources but also in policy formulation in the broacl area of natural resources. His contributions in public health ranged from provision of water en cl wastewater treatment en cl urban en cl regional planning to protection of the public in the pro- cluction of atomic power, en c! in the use of radioactive materials in medicine and industrial processes. As a professor of sanitary engineering and founder of departments in engineering en c! in the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Wolman taught a host of graduate en cl unclergracluate students from around the worIcI. He served as a consultant on water supply en c! water resource manage- 345
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346 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS ment throughout the Uniter! States en c! the cleveloping woric! with the WorIcl Health Organization and inclepenclently with countries in the MicicIle East, Latin America, en cl Asia. An engineer en c! professor, he was equally comfortable with en cl similarly a teacher of students, plumbers, en cl politicians. My friendship with my father, that I can recall, began when I was about four. Some months before he flier! he reminclecl me as we watchecl Charles Street traffic from his home that we usecl to "count cars" together from the thircI- floor Winslow at Eutaw Place en c! Whitelock street in a row house in Baltimore. We counted separately Packards, LaSalles, Chevys, Pierce Arrows, en cl others. Then too we walkocl- en c! talker! to Druic! Park Lake Drive en c! back. The talk clicl not stop until he cliecl on February 22, 1989. My father en cl I workocl together, travelecl together, en cl reviewocl each other's manuscripts. Perhaps the best-organizec! person I've ever known, he was not rushed en cl hacl plenty of time for me en cl the full life he en cl my mother shared. It is in part from this vantage point that I write this memoir. Abel Wolman was born in Baltimore, MarylancI, on June 10, IS92. His parents, Louis en cl Rose (Wachsman) Wolman, and his eldest brother had emigrated from Poland en cl settlecl in the ghetto of east Baltimore. He en cl his five siblings were eclucatecl in the public schools. Wolman, a pre-mec! major, receiver! his B.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1913. In that year the university announced the opening of the Engineering School, en cl he joined the first class in civil engineering, receiving his bachelor's degree in engineering in 1915. The story has it that his mother clecIarecl that he shouIcl become an engineer, inasmuch as there was aireacly one doctor in the family, his oiclest brother Samuel. He married Anna Gordon in 1919, en cl they hacl one chilcI.
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ABEL WOLMAN 347 Wolman's professional career began as a sanitary engi- neer with the Marylancl State Department of Public Health in 1914 after one year with the U.S. Public Health Service sampling water in a stucly of water quality on the Potomac River. The position with the health department primarily involvecl inspection of water en cl wastewater treatment plants. Nonetheless, uncler the tutelage of his boss, Robert B. Morse, he was encouraged to pursue research en cl publication. A singular bulletin of the department (Morse, 1921) inclucles 10 papers reprinter! from journals publisher! between 1919 en cl 1921, all are authored or coauthored by Abel Wolman. One of these papers (1919), coauthored with Linn EnsIow, a chemist in the department, clevelopec! a test for chlorine absorption, which establishecl a controllecl method for chlorination of municipal water supplies. The method, assuring safe drinking water, was acloptec! woric~wicle, perhaps the most important contribution to public health in the twentieth century. Focusing on a combination of engineering science en c! practice, Wolman publishecl on the principles of rapicl sancl filtration, on the probabilistic approaches to the assessment of drinking-water supply quality, and on all phases of the behavior of water and wastewater systems from raw water quality to the financing of infrastructure. In aciclition to publishing over several huncirec! papers, he eclitec! the To urn e] of the American Water Works Association (1921-37) en cl was associate editor of the American To urn e] of Public Health ~ ~ 923-27) en c! editor of Municipal Sanitation ~ ~ 929-35) . Although a contemporary colleague of some, Wolman was among the second generation of engineers in the "sanitary revolution" that began in the nineteenth century, succeecI- ing major figures in the Unitecl States such as Secigwick, Fuller, Winslow, Whipple, and Hazen.
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348 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS In 1922 he became chief engineer of the Marylanc! State Department of Health. In maintaining the close association of sanitary engineering en cl public health en cl in the clevel- opment of his career he was aisles! by Dr. William H. Welch, one of the four leacling figures in the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Meclical School en cl founder of the School of Hygiene en c! Public Health. During the same perioc! he workocl very closely with George W. Fuller, at one time director of the Lawrence Experiment Station, site of original work on filtration, chlorination, en c! water quality. Fuller was perhaps the leacling consulting sanitary engineer in the fielcl at the time. Wolman's association with him incluclecl a trip to review water en c! wastewater practices en c! research in leading centers in Europe. Responsible for environmental regulation of the waters of MarylancI, Wolman helpecl to clevelop water quality stanciarcis, and, reflecting his interest in water resources planning and management, he was instru- mental in establishing regional water en cl wastewater systems as well as the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River in the Washington en cl Baltimore metropolitan regions. Early on, much of his job required convincing cities en cl towns to install water treatment en c! wastewater systems, a task he saicl was initially macle easier by the extraorclinarily high typhoid fever rates experienced early in the century. Growing evidence that provision of clean water remarkably reclucec! the incidence of typhoid fever en cl convinced legislators to appropriate funds for water and wastewater treatment plants. While he grew impatient with what he consiclerec! mis- guiclecl en cl sometimes excessive regulatory zeal in the last quarter of the century "the bulk of my criticism is of speed and ignorance" (Hollander, 1981, p. 633) he was a strong administrator who clicl not blanch at forcing an industry desiring to locate a plant in Marylancl cluring the depth of the depression to meet attainable ambient water-quaTity
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ABEL WOLMAN 349 stanciarcis even at the risk of losing jobs shouic! the industry choose to locate elsewhere. The industry compliecI. First as a government officer en cl later as a consultant, Wolman server! every mayor of Baltimore (nine in all) from 1914 until he cliecl in 1989. Beginning in 1931 en cl until his cleath he was a consulting engineer on water supply, sewerage, refuse clisposal, en c! management to the Baltimore City Department of Public Works. The municipal builcling in Baltimore is namecl the Abel Wolman Builcling. The builcling is about five blocks from the east Baltimore "ghetto" in which he grew up, a fact he notecl cluring the cleclication ceremony. Over time Wolman's work in planning en cl clevelopment encompasses! not only water en c! sewerage but also solic! waste, transportation, en cl natural resources. He served as chairman of the Marylancl State Planning Commission en cl was the author of many studies cleating with management of natural resources en cl urban infrastructure. Wolman become chairman of the Water Resources Plan- ning Committee of the National Resources Planning Boarc! (1935-41) cluring the Roosevelt era. In aciclition to oversee- ing the preparation of planning studies for the major river basins in the Uniter! States, the committee exerciser! some oversight over water projects proposal by the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Although the chief of engineers of the corps declared that prioritizing their projects as proposed by the committee was impossible, at the committee's insistence the corps compliecI. The com- mittee initiates! a number of studies of specializes! topics involving hycirology, hyciraulics, en cl public works. Of par- ticular significance was the beginning of studies that lecl to the first procedure for benefit-cost analysis of water projects competed in 1950 by a different body. In his role as chairman of the Water Resources Planning Committee en c! spokesman for engineers en c! health pro-
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350 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS fessionals in national organizations Wolman became increas- ingly involvecl in national policy issues. As his publishecl papers indicate he espousal the importance of the clevelop- ment of a national water policy. Describer! as a pragmatist, he was also a planner who grew leery of grand plans. This transformation is captured in several observations: "Well, I did it, and it doesn't work" (Hollander, 1981, p. 439), and more comprehensively: "Does our country want a planning agency at the Fecleral level? The answer throughout our history . . . is that it floes not want such an agency" (op. cit. p. 435~. Abel Wolman was among the first to call attention to public health issues associates! with the clevelopment of atomic energy. Against the initial opposition of distinguished mem- bers of the atomic energy fraternity clescenclecl from the Manhattan Project, he insisted! that public health officers in the states en cl the broacler community of public health pro- fessionals become involvecl in the debate over clevelopment of atomic energy en c! the location of nuclear power plants. Although not an opponent of nuclear power clevelopment he became a member of the first Reactor Safeguards Com- mittee he pusher! for recognition of the importance of the clisposal of atomic wastes. He also stressed the necessity for thorough characterization of the geologic, hydrologic, meteorologic, en c! demographic conditions of prospective sites for nuclear power plants. In helping to bring into the decision-making process a broad spectrum of professionals from beyond! the fecleral perspective from the Manhattan Project and the early Atomic Energy Commission Wolman was part of an emerging movement expanding both the number en c! the professionalism of diverse interests involves! in making public decisions (Balogh, 1991~. Wolman was an active participant in the international scene. Simultaneously with the establishment of the State
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ABEL WOLMAN 351 of Israel he began service as chairman of the consulting committee on the clevelopment of the water system for the State of Israel (in 1945), remaining in that position until his cleath. He was an Divisor to nations in Southeast Asia, inclucling India, Ceylon, en cl ThailancI, to many countries in Latin America en cl Africa, in all to about 50 foreign nations. As a member of the first U.S. clelegation to the worIcl assembly at the founcling of the WorIcl Health Organiza- tion, he lecl the effort to inclucle within WHO a program focuses! upon water supply en c! wastewater, a mission omittec! from the initial design that focused on the role of medicine in achieving health. He returned regularly to Geneva as an Divisor to the program to urge clevelopment of urban water systems, early on insisting that even the very poor in villages wouIcl pay for goocl water, a view then much contested but now accepted. Abel Wolman hacl a particularly long en cl close relation- ship with colleagues in Latin America en cl in the Pan Ameri- can Health Organization. He was a founder en c! honorary president of AIDIS, the Interamerican Association of Sanitary Engineering en cl Environmental Sciences, an organization clevotec! to the education of sanitary engineers through pro- vision of texts, development of educational programs, and encouragement of students en cl faculty in the fielcI. Many of the participants were former students. A new headquarters established in 1998 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was named for him when AIDIS celebratecl its fiftieth anniversary. Charles ReVelle (1997), a colleague of Wolman's on the faculty in environmental engineering, notes that "in a speech to a lay audience in 1983, he explained his personal goals for WHO in water supply. 'I want water for people to drink en cl water for people to wash en cl chilciren that survive. Too many chilciren are still crying."' His commitment en cl pleasure in seeing occasional success in the cleveloping woric! was
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352 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS evident in a large well-known WHO photograph of a young girl in Africa using her hands to drink from a tap. The picture hung on the wall in the entrance hall to his home. Wolman's work abroac! with mayors, governors, or heacis of state mirrored his interest en cl style in this country. He stressed what he callecl the "M's": motivation, money, manage- ment, en c! manpower, maintaining a conviction that people wouIcl clo much for themselves if given the opportunity. "I know of no people who given the opportunity wouIcl not wash themselves" (ReVelle, 1997~. He placer! reliance upon electecl officials en cl civil servants en cl was unenthusiastic about hyperbole in public rhetoric en cl hysteria in public decision. At the same time, he participates! in many a public brouhaha, inclucling an appearance before a hostile Kansas state legislature, following a devastating floocI, clefencling a plan of the consulting boars! of which he was a member, the plan incluclecl construction of a number of reservoirs, one of which wouIcl floocl an oIcl cemetery. Similarly he enjoyed recounting how he attempted to defend a proposed private leasing of oyster becis to a group of oystermen on the eastern shore of Marylancl while preparing an escape through a Winslow when the crows! grew unruly. A lifelong student of politics and participant in public decision making, my father enjoyed the company of politicians, observing, "I have always been an amateur student of political relation- ships" (HolIancler, 1981, p. 963~. This aspect of my father's career is captured by Gilbert White (1969, p. x), who observed Probably Wolman's most pervasive influence is in the genre of thought and presentation that shines only partly on the printed page. Rare is the national organization or conference touching on water and environmental engi- neering that has not felt the charm of his analysis of an issue of policy and responsibility. Usually extemporaneous, always felicitous in expression, and punctuated with gentle wit and a soft-spoken sarcasm, the typical Wolman
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ABEL WOLMAN 353 talk sums up the problems in a lucid framework and sends his audience away smiling, a bit puzzled by some of the generalizations, and refreshed by a train a thought that leads to a new perspective. A gift for asking the pertinent but disarming question and for illuminating it in a sharp and faintly ludicrous light has given both direction and relief to countless administrative sessions, and has enlivened seminars and consulting boards. Technical precision and insight blend with cultured urbanity. Inclefatigable, he returnee! to urge passage of legislation on bond issues in support of public works, sometimes a clecacle after initial proposals hacl been rejected. Not one to joust at wincimilis, he remained! both an optimist en c! a realist, remarking on one occasion that one of the things he likocl about working in India was that "graft incluclecl provision for those who swept the floor as well as those at successive levels to the top." Throughout his life my father was a teacher. Beginning in 1922 he taught part-time in the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering en cl in the School of Hygiene en cl Public Health, en cl in 1937 he became chairman of the Department of Sanitary Engineering in the engineering school en c! chair of the Department of Environmental Health Engineering in the School of Hygiene and Public Health. The joint appointment reflected! his view that the environmental engineer shouIcl have a creep unclerstancling of the fielcl of public health that encompassed fields such as epidemiology, toxicology, en c! microbiology. Many in engineering clo not accept this view, but in the history of the School of Public Health, Fee ~ ~ 987, p. ~ 5 ~ ~ conclucles that at the university Wolman successfully pusher! a reluctant faculty in the School of Hygiene en cl Public Health to accept engineers in their courses and physicians en cl health professionals were subjctecl to engineering courses in water supply en c! wastewater, with salutary results.. A popular lecturer to large classes at the School of Public Health, in addition to graduate courses in sanitary engi-
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354 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS peering, Wolman taught a course on the social, economic, and financial aspects of engineering each year to senior civil engineers, the course perhaps best reflected his view of the broac! role en c! responsibility of an engineer. He formally retired as professor at Johns Hopkins in 1965, but maintained his office at the university, continuing in his professional activities en c! perioclically giving lectures en c! seminars. He hacl been scheclulecl to give a seminar two clays after he cliecI. Because of his faithful attendance at the clepartment's weekly seminars into his ninety-sixth year, out- sicle speakers occasionally founcI, as they were criticizing a work clone 60 years before, that the author was not only still alive but was sitting in the room preparer! to offer a question. Professor ReVelle again captured his role as a teacher (1997~: "He assisted en cl acivisecl students for over half a century. He always macle himself available for career counsel en cl for encouragement.... To see him required only a knock on the floor. Although he was incisive en cl critical in technical matters, I cannot recall his offering personal criticism of anyone." In 1968 the departments of geography and of environ- mental engineering science joined to become the Department of Geography en cl Environmental Engineering. I became chairman of the new department in 1970, thereby making my father a faculty member in my department. The follow- ing exchange of letters reveals a sense of humor not captured in the recitation of accomplishments and awards.
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ABEL WOLMAN September 24, 1976 Dean Owen Homewood House My Dear Dean Owen: 355 The new circular of the Johns Hopkins University dated June 1976 indi- cates on page 320 that Abel Wolman D. Eng. is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, and Sanitary Engineering and Water Resources. While it is important for the University to recognize the contributions of distinguished faculty, as a member of the Academic Council over a period of years, I do not recall having approved the appointment of Dr. Abel Wolman as Professor of Mathematics (Emeritus or otherwise). No doubt Dr. Wolman's contributions in Mathematics are not inconsid- erable. However, I find no Teval records of his teaching performance in Calculus 1, nor record of current student evaluations of his teaching at the time of his appointment as Professor Emeritus of Mathematics. May I ask, have the procedural requirements been met in this case? Inflation of the apparent number of full Professors in the Department of Mathematics at an earlier time could of course provide the basis for a claim of restitution. Is the Department of Mathematics interested in Sanitary Mathematics? Thanks for your consideration. Very truly yours, M. Gordon Wolman B. Howell Griswold Professor of Geography
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356 September 27, 1976 Dr. M. Gordon Wolman B. Howell Griswold, fir. Professor of Geography and International Affairs The Johns Hopkins University 513 Ames Hall Baltimore, MD 21218 Dear Sir: BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS I have a copy of your strange letter to Dean Owen on my qualifications as Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and other exotic subjects. I have at last realized how King Lear must have felt when his children turned upon him - "sharper than a serpent's tooth" or something like that! In any event, the appointment gives me much gratification, when I have just about mastered calculating with a slide rule. The typesetter, who made this appointment, had an unusual awareness that Johnny Hoskins U. could well stand a couple of professors who know nothing about their subjects. He has a surprising acquaintance with the modern "free university". It would be expecting too much, I suppose, to have you make a public retraction of your complaint, especially so close to the November election. Sadly, your one-time father Abel Wolman Professor Emeritus of Too Many Things A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, Wolman was the recipi- ent of numerous awards inclucling the Secigwick Mecial of the American Public Health Association, a special aware! of the Lasker Foundation, the Tyler Ecology Prize, the Health for All Mecial of WHO, the Horton Mecial of the American
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ABEL WOLMAN 357 Geophysical Union, en c! the U.S. Mecial of Science. They reflect his scientific en cl engineering contributions as well as his leaclership in a lifelong effort to satisfy the aspira- tions of human societies while protecting en c! enhancing the environment on which society clepencis. At the turn of the twenty-first century the Baltimore Sun newspaper clecIarecl Abe! Wolman to be the Marylancler of the Century. On the clay my father cliecl the university was hoIcling its commemoration clay exercises at which I was to present a cancliciate, a former student of his, for an honorary doctorate. After a brief early morning conversation he saicl to me, "Go clo what you have to clo!" I clicl see him again but at the moment neither he nor I knew I wouicI. I AM indebted to Walter Hollander, Tr., now deceased, author of the oral history of Abel Wolman; to Gilbert F. White, editor of selected papers of Abel Wolman; and to professors Tohn Boland and Charles ReVelle for help in preparing this memoir. REFERENCES Balogh, Brian. 1991. Chain Reaction: Expert Debate and Public Partici- pation in American Commercial Nuclear Power, 1945-1974. Cambridge University Press. Fee, Elizabeth. 1987. Disease and Discovery: A History of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, 1916-1939. Tohns Hopkins University Press. Hollander, W., Tr. 1981. Abel Wolman: His life and philosophy, an oral history. 2 vol. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Universal Printing and Pub- lishing Co. Morse, R. B. (ed.~. 1921. Engineering Bulletin, Maryland State De- partment of Health 1 ~ 1 ~ . ReVelle, C. R. 1997. Abel Wolman: Remarks on the occasion of the installation of Charles O'Melia as first occupant of the Abel Wolman chair in environmental engineering at the Tohns Hopkins Uni- versity. White, G. F. (ed.~. 1969. Water, Health and Society: Selected Papers by Abel Wolman. University of Indiana Press.
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358 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY The complete works en cl bibliography of Abel Wolman are available in the Hamburger Archives, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. 1918 A preliminary analysis of the degree and nature of bacterial removal in filtration plants. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 5:272-78. 1919 With L. H. Enslow. Chlorine absorption and chlorination of water. J. Ind. Eng. Chem. 11:206-13. 1920 The statistical method in problems of water supply quality. Q. Publ. Am. Stat. Assoc. 8:188-202. 1921 The small plant operator as scientist. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 8:359-61. 1925 Values in the control of environment. 7. Am. Public Health Assoc. 15:189-94. 1931 With A. E. Gorman. The significance of waterborne typhoid fever outbreaks 1920-930. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 23:160-201. 1937 Problems in developing a national flood-protection policy. Proc. Am. Soc. Civ. Eng. 63:429-39. 1938 The trend of civil engineering since Franklin.7. Franklin Inst. 226:413-28. A century in arrears. 7. Am. Public Health Assoc. 29:1369-75.
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ABEL WOLMAN 1940 359 An inquiry into standards proposed for stream cleanliness. Sewage Works f. 12:1116-20. 1948 Industrial water supply from processed sewage treatment plant effluent at Baltimore, Maryland. Sewage Works f. 20: 15-19. 1953 Contributions of engineering to health advancement. Paper no. 2611. Trans. Am. Soc. Civ. Eng. Centen. Trans. CT:579-87. 1956 75 years of improvement in water supply quality. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 49:825-33. 1957 Disposal of radioactive wastes. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 49:505-11. Basic principles of a national water policy. Report of AWWA Committee 1130. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 49:825-33. 1959 Technical, financial and administrative aspects of water supply in the urban environment in the Americas. Ing. Sanit. 13:1-31. 1960 Concepts of policy in the formulation of so-called standards of health and safety. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 52: 1, 343-48. 1962 Water resources. A report to the Committee on Natural Resources. Publication lOOOB. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. With A. Wiener. Formulation of national water resources policy in Israel. 7. Am. Water Works Assoc. 54:257-63. 1965 Water Economics and politics. 7. Water Pollut. Control Fed. 37:145-50. The metabolism of cities. Sci. Am. 213:179-90.
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360 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS 1975 Regional governmental dilemmas. Thomas R. Camp lecture. 7. Boston Soc. Civ. Eng. Section ASCE 62:1-8. 1980 Some reflections on river basin management. Prog. Water Technol. 13:1-6. 1983 Reflections, perceptions, and projections. 7. Water Pollut. Control Fed. 55:1412-1416. (discussion 56 t1984] :7-10) . 1986 Is there a public health function? Annul Rev. Public Health 7:1-12.
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