Richard Grill, 74, photographer of operations, human embryos

January 18, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Richard D. Grill, a highly regarded photographer who specialized in pictures of operations and human embryos, died Wednesday of multiple myeloma at Ridgeway Manor Nursing Home in Catonsville. He was 74.

Until retiring in 1986, the longtime Ellicott City resident was the biological photographer for 37 years at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Embryology, located on the Homewood campus of the Johns Hopkins University.

The department, which was established in 1914 to study human embryo development, now concentrates on molecular and cellular development. Its human embryo collection, the largest in the world, was recently donated to the Army Medical Center in Washington.

Mr. Grill used Speed Graflex and Leica cameras to produce the highly detailed photographs of operations, medical procedures and embryos that were later studied by researchers. He painstakingly photographed medical subjects while staring through a microscope.

One of his most widely requested photographs was of a microscopic, two-celled embryo, family members said.

"As a photographer, he was very, very skilled. He was an extremely fine scientific photographer," said Dr. Donald D. Brown, who was director of the Carnegie Institution from 1976 until 1994.

"He was a very important participant in the great days of anatomical embryology," said Dr. Brown, who described Mr. Grill as a "feisty fellow" who was "meticulous and very precise."

Born and raised on Rosedale Street in West Baltimore, Mr. Grill was a 1944 graduate of Polytechnic Institute.

A musician who played clarinet and saxophone, Mr. Grill enlisted in the Navy and served with a band based in Newfoundland. He was discharged in 1946.

"It was while he was in Newfoundland that he became interested in photography. He ran a Navy photo shop and took photographs of officers," said his wife of 46 years, the former Irene May.

"He always had a keen visual sense," said Mrs. Grill, who said her husband worked as a draftsman briefly after the war and studied photography at the University of Maryland.

He went to work for the Carnegie Institution in 1949, then located at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he began his career setting up cumbersome photographic equipment in operating rooms to record highly complex brain operations.

He was a member of the Biologic Photographers Association. He had also been a vice president and treasurer of the Arbutus Savings and Loan Association.

Mr. Grill enjoyed attending performances of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Center Stage. He also liked to travel and to spend time at a vacation retirement home in Ocean Pines.

He was a communicant and former vestryman of St. John Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, where a memorial service was held yesterday.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Grill is survived by three sons, Gary S. Grill of Cockeysville, Stephen E. Grill of Reston, Va., and Bradley R. Grill of Arlington, Mass.; a brother, Philip A. Grill Jr. of Roland Park; and five grandchildren.

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