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The John Jacob Abel Collection

  • Creator: Abel, John Jacob (1857-1938)

  • Collection Date: 1880 - 1940

  • Extent: 84 linear ft.

  • Complete Finding Aid
John Jacob Abel
by Griffith B. Coale;
oil on canvas, 36 by 42 inches,


John Jacob Abel was born near Cleveland, Ohio, in 1857 and received his Ph.B. in 1883 from the University of Michigan. To prepare for a career in scientific medicine, he spent a year at the Johns Hopkins University studying physiology under Henry Newell Martin and then studied for several years at various European universities. In 1888, he received his M.D. from the University of Strasbourg and then returned to the University of Michigan to accept the professorship inmateria medica.

In 1893, Abel was recruited to establish the department of pharmacology at the newly founded Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He thus became the first full-time professor of pharmacology in the United States. He changed the course of teaching in the basic sciences by encouraging his students to conduct experiments and become active participants in his laboratory research. One of the early goals of Abel's department was the isolation of pure hormones, and in 1897 he reported the isolation of a derivative of epinephrine. In 1926, he reported the isolation and crystallization of insulin. Abel also investigated the functions of the kidney and devised a vividiffusion apparatus for removing toxins from the blood of living animals, an apparatus that is widely regarded as a forerunner of the artificial kidney.

Abel founded the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1905 and the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 1909.

Hopkins Affiliations

1884 Johns Hopkins University School of Arts and Sciences
1893-1938 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Scope and Content

The John Jacob Abel Collection consists primarily of correspondence (1880-1938). Other series include student notebooks, research notebooks, lab and lecture notes, photographs, addresses and talks, honorary degrees, and awards. The collection also contains press clippings (1883-1940), programs and invitations (1889-1937), and calling cards (1880-1930) that Abel saved throughout his career. Biographical material includes remebrances of Abel by friends and colleagues, information on the life and interests of his wife Mary Abel, and accounts of his early education and pharmacology research. The collection is particularly strong in documenting Abel's research on tetanus, including reprints, articles, experimental notes, editorials, and letters.

Additional correspondence with Abel can be found in the personal paper collections of Lewellys Barker, Thomas Cullen, Walter Dandy, William Halsted, Howard Kelly, Adolf Meyer, William Welch, and Lewis Weed.

Policy on Access and Use

This collection may contain some restricted records. Materials pertaining to patients, students, employees, and human research subjects, as well as unprocessed collections and recent administrative records, carry restrictions on access. For more information about the policies and procedures for access, see Policy on Access and Use.

Permissions and Credits

When citing material from this collection, credit The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. For permission to reproduce images, contact the holder of the copyright.

For permissions:
archives at jhmi dot edu.