Morris Victor Shelanski

by | Aug 14, 2020 | Obituaries

Wynnewood, Pa.—Morris V. Shelanski, M.D., called “Doc” by many, passed away peacefully at home in Wynnewood, Pa, the morning of 23 July 2020.

He lived a long and fruitful life and he leaves us one month shy of 99 years of age. The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Dr. Shelanski grew up poor in South Philadelphia with a childhood that nurtured his exceptional intellect and intense curiosity. He earned an academic scholarship to Harvard College, then later his M.D. and Master Surgeon degrees from McGill University. He began his professional career as a surgeon at Philadelphia General Hospital, where he met, and later married the love of his life, Rita, a registered nurse. They were married for 65 years.

Dr. Shelanski served in the United States Naval Reserve as a doctor doing special research in chemical warfare protection for both the Army and Navy, and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. After the Navy, he worked with his brother, Herman, at Industrial Toxicology Laboratories in Philadelphia, and both were among the nation’s first toxicologists. Together they invented Povidone-Iodine, commonly known as Betadine, an iodine-based anti-bacterial liquid, in use now since 1953 in hospitals and clinics throughout the world as a pre- and post-surgical wash. This has helped save millions of lives. He started his own company, Product Investigations, Inc., testing many chemicals, substances and cosmetics for safety and efficiency for both the government and commercial marketplace.

While at Harvard, he took coursework in archeology and ancient civilizations that kindled his passion for classical art and antiquities. Dr. Shelanski amassed a much-admired collection over 40 years and was well known at antique stores from Philadelphia to Boston. His passion for collecting was tempered only by Rita, and he often had one of his children sneak the latest painting or Chinese vase into a closet in the house, lest he be caught and have to face her wrath.

He was a true Renaissance man in terms of his talent for calligraphy, multiple patents for “ahead-of-their-time” technical medical devices, expertise, unwavering devotion to the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle, and love of classical music and high-end, high-fidelity stereo equipment.

Above all else, Morris Shelanski was a deeply kind and generous man who loved his large family. Nothing made him happier than to have them all together for Shabbat dinners, where he would hold court afterwards for hours telling jokes and hilarious stories.

He leaves his much-adored wife Rita, his five children, Joseph (Sharon), Herman (Patty), Samuel, Anne (John Dougherty) and Stephan. His legacy also includes 12 beloved grandchildren and two great-grandchildren in a long, happy life guided by the ethics and morals of Judaism. The world is a better place because of him, and he will be greatly missed.