John Jacob Abel

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John Jacob Abel
John Jacob Abel.jpg
Born 19 May 1857
Cleveland, Ohio
Died 26 May 1938 (1938-05-27) (aged 81)
Nationality American
Fields biochemist
Institutions Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Alma mater University of Michigan
Notable awards Foreign Member of the Royal Society[1]
Willard Gibbs Award (1927)

John Jacob Abel (19 May 1857 – 26 May 1938) was an influential American biochemist and pharmacologist.

Early life[edit]

Born to George M. and Mary (Becker) Abel[2] near Cleveland, Ohio, he graduated with a B.A. in 1883 from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Henry Sewall. Abel received a M.D. at Strasburg in 1888.[3]


In 1891 he founded and chaired the first department of pharmacology in the United States at the University of Michigan. In 1893, he went on to chair the pharmacology department at Johns Hopkins University. In 1897, he was the second to isolate epinephrine, also known as adrenaline (the first was Napoleon Cybulski in 1895), although the extracts he produced have been shown to be mostly an inactive metabolite and the first pure extracts were produced by the Japanese Jokichi Takamine (1854–1922) who patented the formulation under the name adrenalin. He later formulated the idea of the artificial kidney and in 1914 he isolated amino acids from the blood.

He spent years unsuccessfully searching for the pituitary hormone, unaware that he was in fact looking for several hormones. In 1926, he reported the isolation and crystallization of insulin, though this announcement was met with considerable skepticism and not generally accepted for many years.

Abel also co-founded the Journal of Biological Chemistry with Christian Archibald Herter in 1905 and the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 1909.

Abel was one of the many students of Oswald Schmiederberg who founded pharmacology departments all over the world including Genoa, Heidelberg, Berlin, Padua, Japan, Edinburgh, and the United States. Oswald Schmiederberg was an ordinarius in pharmacology in Dorpat (1869–1872) and the University of Strassburg in France (1872–1918) and one of the major influences in the spread and development of pharmacology in the 19th century.

Private life[edit]

He married Mary Hinman in 1883.


  1. ^ Dale, H. H. (1939). "John Jacob Abel. 1857-1938". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 2 (7): 577–526. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1939.0019. 
  2. ^ "Abel, John Jacob". Who Was Who Among North American Authors, 1921-1939. Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1976. p. 5. ISBN 0-8103-1041-4. 
  3. ^ From Medical Chemistry to Biochemistry, R. Kohler, p. 105


  • Gastel B (Mar 1986). "Abel and onward: some early history of hemodialysis" (Free full text). Medical Instrumentation. 20 (2): 62–4. ISSN 0090-6689. PMID 3517604. 
  • Becker RA (1982). "The John Jacob Abel papers—primary sources for the history of American pharmacology". Pharmacy in History. 24 (3): 115–6. ISSN 0031-7047. PMID 11615884. 
  • Parascandola J (Winter 1982). "John J. Abel and the early development of pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 56 (4): 512–27. ISSN 0007-5140. PMID 6760940. 
  • Harvey AM (1976). "Pharmacology's giant: John Jacob Abel". Johns Hopkins Medical Journal. Supplement: 49–59. ISSN 0091-7400. PMID 801548. 
  • Harvey AM (October 1974). "Pharmacology's giant: John Jacob Abel". The Johns Hopkins Medical Journal. 135 (4): 245–58. ISSN 0021-7263. PMID 4606906. 
  • Rosenberg, Charles (1970). "Abel, John Jacob". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 9–12. 
  • Murnaghan JH, Talalay P (Spring 1967). "John Jacob Abel and the crystallization of insulin". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 10 (3): 334–80. ISSN 0031-5982. PMID 5340582. 
  • Darby TD (February 1964). "On teaching pharmacology and therapeutics in our medical schools Deliberation upon and a rephrasing of an article by John J. Abel". American Heart Journal. 67 (2): 145–9. doi:10.1016/0002-8703(64)90361-8. ISSN 0002-8703. PMID 14118479. 
  • SWAIN HH, Geiling EM, Heingartner A (Jan 1963). "John Jacob ABEL at Michigan. The introduction of pharmacology into the medical curriculum". Medical Bulletin. 29: 1–14. ISSN 0196-5336. PMID 13979597. 
  • Marshall EK (Jul 1958). "An exhibit at the centennial celebration of John Jacob Abel's birth". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 32 (4): 356–65. ISSN 0007-5140. PMID 13573011. 
  • Sollman T, Amberg S, Voegtlin C, et al. (December 1957). "Centenary of the birth of John Jacob Abel". Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. 101 (6): 298–328. ISSN 0097-1383. PMID 13489405. 
  • Parascandola, John (1992). The Development of American Pharmacology: John J. Abel and the Shaping of a Discipline. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-8018-4416-9. 

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