Max Maurice Strumia, 1896–1972

Publication Year: 1972.


Max Strumia was born in Turin, Italy, September 23, 1896, and died at Bryn Mawr, Pa., on January 13, 1972. He served in the Medical Corps of the Italian Army 1915–21, becoming First Lieutenant. In 1920 he completed the first work on pneumococci typing in Europe. Coming to this country, he took internship at Misericordia Hospital, Philadelphia, received M.D. licensure in 1922, and in 1924 gained a D.Sc. from the U. of Pa. Graduate School of Medicine. He was pathologist at the Misericordia Hospital, 1924–31, on the teaching staff of the U. of Pa. Medical School, 1924–66, becoming Professor Emeritus of Clinical Pathology at the Graduate School. He was Director of the Laboratory of Clinical Pathology at Bryn Mawr Hospital, 1932–68. He received the Burdick gold medal of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists for original work in plasma and other blood derivatives, an Hon. D.Sc. from the Univ. of Vermont, was made an Hon. Member of the Academy of Medicine, Univ. of Turin, awarded the Italian Knight Cross and a U.S. Presidential citation for work during World War II.

Strumia pioneered in work on blood plasma from 1917, was the first to use human plasma in large doses intravenously, and developed the method of preserving plasma in the frozen state. In 1938 he was the first to prepare and use dried blood plasma successfully. In 1945 he prepared modified globin for human erythrocytes as a plasma substitute and used it for the relief of shock. In 1948 he founded the blood bank of Turin. He was the co-author of Blood and Plasma Transfusion (1949) and contributed over 130 scientific articles to medical journals. He introduced the use of non-penetrating sugar for preservation of blood at 0 to -3°C. (1950). He was a founding member of the American College of Pathologists, and a member of the National Research Council (1940–63). In World War II he served in the U.S. Navy as Lieut. Commander and was honorably discharged because of illness in 1943. In addition to mountaineering, his hobbies were archery and copperplate etching.

Living in sight of the Cottian Alps, he began climbing in 1911 and, during the next ten years, made more than 70 ascents in the western and central Alps, all of them guideless with student companions, a number of them by new routes with himself as leader. He also made winter ascents on skis and was long a member of the C.A.I.

In the autumn of 1923 a knock came at my office door and I found standing there a handsome dark-haired young man, holding in has hand a newspaper clipping with a picture of the Tonquin valley peaks of the Canadian Rockies. He explained, in somewhat fractured English and with animated gestures, that he was a climber eager to see the wonders of our western mountains. Thus began a friendship which lasted nearly half a century. He joined my party of 1924 and, as we passedthrough Chicago, the news reached us that Mallory and Irvine had vanished on Mount Everest. From Jasper we visited Athabaska Pass and the Scott glacier area. There we made new ascents, Mounts Kane, Oates and Hooker, being beset by storms on the latter, which held us in caves for two nights and gave rise to rumors that we had lost our lives. Conrad Kain was with us as guide and a few days later, we reached Ton- quin Valley and made the first ascent of Simon Peak, highest of the Ramparts. Conrad gave Max the ultimate accolade: “A very tough Gink!”

Max made a few minor climbs in the Alps in 1925 having in 1924 married Florence Ferretti at Philadelphia. In 1926 he again went with me to Canada, where, with Edward Feuz as guide, we reached four of the Lyell peaks (three of them new) and were also the first to put up a route on Mount Forbes from Glacier Lake. We dropped in at the Freshfield group to make glacier measurements, Max and Edward taking time off for the first ascent of Mount Solitaire. We then crossed the snowfields from Bow lake to Yoho valley, traversing Mount Collie en route. In this year Max joined the American Alpine Club.

In 1927 he had a big season in the Alps, including Matterhorn by the old Corridor route, Breithorn (north face direct from Triftje) and Signalkuppe (traverse; first complete ascent of the east arête, including the great gendarme).

We were back in Canada in 1928, our guideless party being strengthened by the presence of Bill Hainsworth, who thereafter became Max’s perennial companion. We set up a bivouac camp on the Hooker icefield, making first ascents of Mounts Ermatinger, Scott and Evans. When we returned to Jasper, Bill and Max went on to Maligne lake, where Max led the first ascents of Mounts Charlton, Warren and Sampson Peak.

Following his plan of alternating years, Max was in the Alps in 1929, his most impressive conquest being Dent d’Hérens (first ascent of the southeast face). In 1930 he and Hainsworth were together again in the Rockies, Max leading first ascents of important peaks between the Columbia icefield and Maligne lake.

Max limited himself to the Mont Blanc chain in 1931: Grandes Jorasses, Aiguille de Triolet, Aiguille Savoie, Aiguille de Rochefort (traverse), Mont Mallet,Aiguille du Géant, followed by a list of solo climbs: Aiguille Marbrées, Pte. Helbronner, Grand and Petit Flambeau, Aiguille de Toule and Aiguille d’Entrêves.

In 1932 Strumia and Hainsworth, with H. Fuhrer, made the important conquest of Oubliette Mountain from Tonquin valley. In 1934 they attempted Mount Robson by various routes, as well as ascending Helmet Mountain, traversing from Dome.

Max took his son, Paul, to the Alps in 1946, 1948 and 1950, where ascents such as Mont Pelvoux, Aiguille du Géant (twice), Mont Blanc and Matterhorn (traverse) were part of the qualification which broughthim into the American Alpine Club in 1950. In this period Max built a chalet at Planpincieux, facing the Grandes Jorasses in the Val Ferret, where he and members of his family held summer reunions.

In addition to his widow, Dr. Strumia is survived by a son, Dr. Paul, also a pathologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital; a daughter, Mrs. Guido Vanni, of Genoa; a sister, a brother and five grandchildren.

It is a great satisfaction to have been the first to bring Max Strumia and Bill Hainsworth to the Canadian Rockies, a partnership from which we all gained much. What can one say when such splendid spirits are no longer with us and the sense of loneliness is overwhelming? Only that one loved them and that they will live in one’s heart until it, in turn, ceases to beat.

By chance all three of us contributed to the first issue of American Alpine Journal (1929). The paper by Max was by far the most notable, a classic and thoughtful analysis of “Moods of the Mountain and Climbers:”

“If, from the top of a rocky peak, after a long march in snow, as we gaze on the valley below, and we have no water to drink and nothing but rocks to lie on, our eyes will be fixed on the soft curve of fields with a silvery thread running through them, and the brown roofs of huts lost in the peace of the green. That sort of sight will attract, unconsciously, our eyes, and we will admire it more than the majesty of a neighboring peak. Were we less tired, we should look for something above us, something that promises a battle and not rest.”

It is strange how one’s recollection of a man sometimes goes back to a single moment now long past. Max was born with a gift of laughter, unmistakable in its Latin touch. We are again on the Hooker icefield, the rising sun shedding uncertain gleams on our ragged canvas shelter. Max has gone out on the snow and stands on a rock, shouting the “Song of Seraphin,” verse from the pre-Alps of Lombardy that had many a time before cleared the sky:

Serafin aveva un sifulo,

Sifulava tanto bene,

Che quand’era nivulo,

Faceva rasserenir!

Seraphin once had a piccolo,

He could play it so divinely,

That when the sun was covered up,

He would make sunshine again!