The Karel B. Absolon Collection is comprised of Absolon family papers and Karel B. Absolon's research and collecting interest, particularly Theodor Billroth. The papers relating to Absolon's family span three generations and include Karel B. Absolon, Karel Absolon, Willibald Absolon, and Jaroslav Bakes (a cousin to Karel Absolon). Karel B. Absolon's primary research interest was Austrian abdominal surgeon Theodor Billroth (1829-1894). Absolon also collected items related to European, primarily men, in the science field. The collection includes correspondence, translations, prints, photographs, articles, ephemera, and original documents.
Surgeon and medical historian Karel B. Absolon was born on 1926 March 21 in Moravia to Karel and Valerie Absolon. After attending medical school for one year, he immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia due to the Communist takeover in 1948. In 1953, he graduated from the Yale University School of Medicine and ten years later earned his master's degree in physiology and a doctorate in surgery from the University of Minnesota. Over his career, Absolon worked at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at National Institutes of Health; the Veterans Administration facility in Danville, Illinois; and served as chief of surgery at Washington Hospital Center. He wrote over 500 peer-reviewed articles and over 20 books on surgery and medical history, including a three-volume biography on Austrian abdominal surgeon Theodor Billroth. Absolon married Mary Joan Bendix and they had Fritz, Peter, Mary (Herber), John, and Martha (Delehanty). He died on 2009 October 2.
Karel Absolon (1877-1960) was a Czech archaeologist, geographer, paleontologist, and speleologist. He was born 1877 June 16 to Willibald and Karla (Wankel) Absolon. He was the grandson of paleontologist Heinrich Wankel. In 1925, near Brno in Moravia, he discovered the "Venus of Dolní Věstonice" figurine dated circa 29,000–25,000 BCE. During his lifetime, Absolon was the custodian of the Moravian Museum in Brno, a professor of paleoanthropology at the Charles University in Prague, worked on the systemic mapping of the Moravian Karst, and explored karstic caves in the Balkans, France, and England. He died 1960 October 6.
Austrian Theodor Billroth is considered the founding father of modern abdominal surgery and was instrumental in establishing the first modern school of thought on surgery. Christian Albert Theodor Billroth was born 1829 April 26 in Bergen auf Rügen, Prussia. He studied at the University of Greifswald, the University of Göttingen, and Humboldt University of Berlin, earning his degree from the last in 1852. From 1853 to 1860 he was an assistant in B. R. K. Langenbeck's surgical clinic in Berlin; at the end of his tenure there, he received a double appointment as professor of surgery and director of the surgical clinic the University of Zürich. In 1858, Billroth married Christine Michaelis, and they would have four daughters and one son, but only three daughters would survive to adulthood. Among his many accomplishments, he performed the first esophagectomy, the first laryngectomy, and the first successful gastrectomy for gastric cancer (after many ill-fated attempts), as well as publishing. In addition to his medical developments, Billroth was one of the first to attempt scientific analysis of music, was a talented violinist and pianist, and was a lifelong friend of composer Johannes Brahms. Brahms sent his compositions to Billroth for his opinion prior to sending them for publishing. Billroth was a regular participant in rehearsals of Brahms's chamber works. Billroth died 1894 February 6 in Opatija, Austria-Hungary (now Croatia).
Heinrich Wankel (1821-1897) was a Bohemian paleontologist and archaeologist. He was born 1821 July 15 to Damian and Magdalena (Schwarz) Wankel in Prague. He attended German schools in Prague, and studied medicine at the University of Prague under Josef Hyrtl. In 1849, Wankel lived in Blansko where he worked as a medical doctor, but also began geological exploration of the area and later branched out to include paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology. In 1850, he set up one of the first labs to research fossil bones from the Cenozoic Era. At the lab, Wankel assembled a complete skeleton of a cave bear. His most famous discovery came in 1872, when he discovered a burial site in the Býčí skála (Bull Rock) cave of a nobleman from the Bronze Age with skeletons of 40 ritually killed young women. In 1851, he married Eliska Šímová, and they had Aurélie, Lucie (m. Franz Bakeš), Karla (m1. Karel Absolon, m2. Edward Bufka), Vlasta (m. Jan Havelka), Madlena, and Leopoldina. Aurélie died before the age of two and Leopoldina lived less than a month, but the other four girls survived to adulthood and became involved with ethnography. Wankel died 1897 April 5 in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
The Karel B. Absolon Collection is comprised of Absolon family papers and Karel B. Absolon's research and collecting interest, particularly Theodor Billroth. The papers relating to Absolon's family span three generations and include Karel B. Absolon, Karel Absolon, Willibald Absolon, and Jaroslav Bakes (a cousin to Karel Absolon). There are several items related to Willibald Absolon, including high school diplomas, doctoral degree, baptismal records, and assignments to hospitals while earning medical degree. These items are primarily in German. Also included with the Absolon family papers items related to Karel Absolon (1877-1960), who was a Czech archaeologist and cave explorer who discovered the Venus of Dolní Věstonice figurine that is dated circa 29,000-25,000 BCE. A replica of the figurine is included, along with archaeological related items. The majority of the Absolon family papers series belonged to Karel B. Absolon (1926-2009) who was a surgeon and medical historian. Correspondence, published medical articles, medical article drafts, and papers related to his research and professional career are included.
Karel B. Absolon's primary research interest was Austrian abdominal surgeon Theodor Billroth (1829-1894), culminating in publishing Surgeon's Surgeon, a three-volume biography on Billroth. Items include papers original to Billroth, as well as information from Absolon's research. Absolon translated hundreds of Billroth's letters into English, and even visited various sites in Europe associated with Billroth doing research. Also included in this series are Absolon's correspondence while doing research, articles written about Billroth, and various prints, ephemera, and coins to commemorate Billroth.
The last series is comprised of drawings, photographs, and ephemera of European, primarily men in the science field. Included are those who were surgeons, physicians, anatomists, biologists, and others related to the sciences. There is not one specific era or subject represented, but rather a broad scope covering from the early 17th century to the second half of the 20th century. Heinrich Wankel, Karel B. Absolon's great-grandfather, was a Bohemian palaeontologist and archaeologist. Included in this series is Wankel's journal from 1843-1845, along with other Wankel family documents.
2001 January 16: manuscript material and illustrations. Gift of Dr. Karel B. Absolon of Rockville, Maryland.
2002 September 5: manuscript material and illustrations. Gift of Dr. Karel B. Absolon of Rockville, Maryland.
2007 September 15: books and pamphlets. Gift of Dr. Karel B. Absolon of Rockville, Maryland.
2010 June 30: one letter, one photograph, and six postcards. Gift of Mrs. Karel B. (Mary T.) Absolon of Rockville, Maryland.
2012 June 6: one illustration and five inches of manuscript material. Gift of Mrs. Karel B. (Mary T.) Absolon of Rockville, Maryland.
2016 July 1: Theodor Billroth, Heinrich Wankel, and Karel Absolon archival materials and papers. Approximately 1 cubic foot. Gift of Mary T. Absolon of Edina, Minnesota.
2017: Theodor Billroth and Karel Absolon archival materials and papers. Gift of Mary T. Absolon of Edina, Minnesota.
Gift of Dr. Karel B. Absolon
Gift of Mrs. Karel B. (Mary T.) Absolon
Initial inventory prepared by Charlotte Critcher, 2015. Processed by Janet Heath and Melissa Nasea, 2015. Processing revised by Ashley Williams, 2016. Revised by Layne Carpenter, 2018.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
English, Czech, French, German, Latin
Karel B. Absolon History of Medicine Collection (LL 02.17), The William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Oral History Collection (LL 02.03), The William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Related books can be found by searching the Laupus Library catalog.