Overview of the Site

History of the Collection

In 1970, the Clendening History of Medicine Library received a sizable gift of antique medical texts and writings from Dr. Thor Jager of Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Jager’s collection consisted of more than 1000 books, manuscripts and letters and has added much to the already renowned Clendening collection. Of the donated material, the personal writings of the famous 19th century pathologist Dr. Rudolf Virchow are most unique. These original writings include personal letters, documents and a dozen original manuscripts.

Dr. Jager was born in Sweden and came to the United States to be trained as a physician. He received his M.D. degree at Northwestern University, and became a pathologist.After medical school, Dr. Jager settled in Wichita, Kansas where he accepted a position at St. Francis hospital. During this time of medical history (late 1800’s to early 1900’s), it was customary for pathologists to receive further training in their specialty in a German speaking land. Dr. Jager spent time in Germany on four separate visits to universities in Tübingen, Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. By virtue of his training in pathology and knowledge of the German language, he was naturally attracted to the writings and life of the then extremely renowned pathologist Dr. Rudolf Virchow. Dr. Jager procured the majority of his collection via several different antique and rare book businesses. He also acquired some items personally while visiting England and Germany. Exactly when and how Dr. Jager obtained the manuscripts and letter which appear on this site is unknown.

Comments on the Translation
A major obstacle in any translation project is the potential to lose the original author’s voice and meaning. Another obstacle is deciphering the personal handwriting of the author. Fortunately, Dr. Jager transcribed many of Virchow’s original manuscripts into typed German. This translation comes mainly via Dr. Jager’s transcription. I benefitted from the help of Dr. Helmut E. Huelsbergen (Professor Emeritus, University of Kansas) and his wife Ursula to verify Dr. Jager’s transcription and my translation.

Dr. Virchow used a sort of a shorthand symbol for the conjunction of “and”. To reflect this in the translation I have used the ampersand wherever Virchow had used this shorthand. The underlined words in the original manuscripts appear italicized in the English translation as well as the titles of publications. Although the manuscripts are well preserved, they nevertheless contain some markings that we believe were not made by Virchow himself. These markings are most notable on the chronological outline pages.

Autobiographical Outline
The autobiographical outline is an original manuscript, which consists of a narrative introduction entitled “Most Important Works” followed by a chronological outline. Erwin H. Ackerknecht in his biography of Virchow called the manuscript curriculum vitae. The form of the manuscript however is more akin to a simple autobiographical piece of work. In the original document, Virchow used one single sheet of 8 1/2” by 11” paper that was folded in half with the “Most Important Works” page as the front cover and the inside right half of the page and the reverse of that right half of the page containing the chronological outline. The English translation of the first page was originally published by Ackerknecht in his biography of Virchow in 1953. The translation that appears here is taken from Ackerknecht’s rendering with a few minor alterations that are noted.

The exact date and reason why Virchow penned this autobiography remains elusive. However, from a reference in the second page of the outline it is possible to narrow down the time frame when Virchow might have written the outline. During the year of 1859, two volumes of the Archiv were published, namely the sixteenth and the seventeenth volumes. The sixteenth volume was finished in June. The seventeenth volume was finished in September. Thus, Virchow most likely wrote this outline sometime during the summer of 1859 between June and September. During this period of his life Virchow was living in Berlin and working as a full professor, director of the Pathology Institute, and at the Charité. Additionally, he was once again beginning to become involved in the political landscape. Perhaps the autobiography served a political purpose? Dr. Jager in his personal notes speculated that it was written as an application to some medical society. It may never be known.

Letter concerning Crown Prince Frederick III
This communication from Virchow is directly addressed to Count Hugo Radolinski (also Radolinsky), the Court Marshal to Crown Prince Frederick III. Whether with this letter Virchow was answering an inquiry from the Crown Prince or Radolinski we cannot be certain. Hugo Radolinski was the Court Marshal to Crown Prince Frederick III for a few years leading up to the Prince's ascension to the throne and during his brief reign.

With the letter, Virchow wishes to send some printed materials to the Crown Prince, as well as to further reiterate his diagnosis of the laryngeal growth. At this time, Virchow had already written three of the eventual four pathology reports concerning the laryngeal growth of the Crown Prince. All of these reports were translated into English except for the first one. The first report was communicated orally to Dr. Morrell Mackenzie and is recorded in his book on the Prince’s illness. The reports all share the commonality of lacking no firm diagnosis concerning the cancerous nature of the laryngeal growth. In this letter, Virchow maintains this diagnostic ambiguity.

Virchow Home

© 2000 University of Kansas Medical Center
Comments: clendening@kumc.edu
Revised: April 13, 2000