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Hartwig Kuhlenbeck papers

Identifier: DUCOM-323

Scope and Contents

This collection spans the years 1911 to 1984, when Dr. Kuhlenbeck passed away. It represents Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s life as a serious researcher in neuroanatomy, his extensive traveling, and provides evidence of his education, military service, and his long career as a professor at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. This finding aid does not describe the approximately 500 volumes of books received with the donation of his papers.

Series I: Personal papers contains biographical information about Dr. Kuhlenbeck, including his appointments at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and his education, German military records, medical licenses, and datebooks belonging to Dr. Kuhlenbeck and his wife, Ozelia Kuhlenbeck. There are research notes from some of his publications, and prose works written by Mrs. Kuhlenbeck. Dr. Kuhlenbeck spent several years in Japan and his time there is represented by travel brochures, maps, and language flash cards. Mrs. Kuhlenbeck was involved with the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania Auxiliary and this series houses the history of the organization and meeting minutes dating from 1948 to 1958. Of special note, Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s Tagebuchblatter (journal), dating from the end of World War I in 1918 to his appointment as Research Professor in Neurobiology in 1963. These journals are in German, but hold an intimate view into Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s life.

Series II: Correspondence contains address books and numerous Christmas cards addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Kuhlenbeck. Years of correspondence (1967-1982) between Dr. Kuhlenbeck and his colleague, neurosurgeon Joachim Gerlach, are of great interest, as they reflect both the professional and personal relationship of the doctors. Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s time at Woman’s Medical College is illustrated in this series, with letters concerning his appointments and his research included; however there is a large gap of no correspondence between 1946 and 1959. There are letters from his aunt or cousin, who remained in Germany during the 1930s. Additionally, correspondence from publishers S. Karger AG regarding Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s published works, especially The Human and Brain and its Universe, is found in this series.

Series III: Medical Illustrations consists mainly of sketches, proofs, and prints of illustrations found in the first volumes of The Central Nervous System of Vertebrates, although there are sketches from some of Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s early publications in the 1920s and 1930s. Also housed in this series are glass slides of images used in his publications dating to 1936, 1937, and 1938.

Series IV: Reprints contains medical journal articles of interest to Dr. Kuhlenbeck. The articles span 50 years, from 1920 to 1970.

Series V: Pathology Department holds autopsy reports from the Hospital of the Woman’s Medical College; these reports cover the years 1939 to 1955. The rest of the records in this series is restricted; these documents contain cancer consultations from the Department of Pathology, Hospital of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1961-1969.

Series VI: Realia contains souvenirs from Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s extensive travels, including a possibly authentic shrunken head from Peru and matchbooks; and World War II memorabilia, including Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s jacket, pilot’s cap and googles, and military medals and pins.

Series VII: Photographs contains over twenty photo albums depicting Dr. Kuhlenbeck’s travels to Europe, Japan, South America, India, and other locations; including photos taken while flying or mountain climbing. Most albums are not dated or identified in any way. There are also photos of Dr. and Mrs. Kuhlenbeck and their families, and pictures of Dr. Kuhlenbeck as a young soldier in the German Army during World War I.


  • 1911-1984


Language of Materials

English; German

Conditions Governing Access

Series V: Pathology Department contains restricted material due to HIPAA. The material concerns cancer consultations during the 1960s in the Pathology Department within the Hospital of the Woman's Medical College.

Biographical / Historical

Hartwig Kuhlenbeck was born May 2, 1897, in Jena, Germany to Dr. iur. Ludwig Kuhlenbeck, an attorney, and Helene (neé Ayrer). In 1909, Kuhlenbeck entered the Gymnasium (undergraduate college) at Jena and transferred to the Domgymnasium in Naumberg when his family moved. Kuhlenbeck served in World War I as a soldier in the German army, and passed his Maturity Exam (equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts) at the Domgymnasium of Naumberg in 1915.

Kuhlenbeck had been interested in the evolution, structure, and function of the brain while he was working on his undergraduate degree and after graduation, he entered the University of Jena in 1918 to study philosophy and medicine. He received his Doctor of Philosophy in 1920, and in 1922, his M.D. Dr. Kuhlenbeck worked as a voluntary assistant in the surgical clinic at the University of Tübingen, served as a ship’s surgeon with the Hugo Stinnes lines, and as a practicing physician in Mexico City at the American Hospital. In 1924, he married an American woman, Ozelia Proteau, while living in Mexico City.

For three years (1924-1927), Dr. Kuhlenbeck was a Dozent of Anatomy and Comparative Neurology at the Imperial University of Tokyo, Japan, as well as at the Keio University of Tokyo, the Medical College of Chiba, and as a guest lecturer at the Imperial University of Hokkaido in Sapporo. He returned briefly to Germany in the role of Assistant in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Breslau, but left in 1933 “because of [his] opposition to the Nazi Regime.” After visiting Japanese universities, Kuhlenbeck received his medical license in New York while working at the Mt. Sinai Hospital, then obtained a Visiting Fellowship in Anatomy in the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1934.

In 1935, Dr. Kuhlenbeck was appointed Acting Professor of Anatomy and Head of the Department of Anatomy at Woman’s Medical College, and in 1938, became a full Professor. He received his United States citizenship in 1938. Dr. Kuhlenbeck spent most of the rest of his career at Woman’s Medical College, except for a brief absence between 1944 and 1946 when he served as Captain and then Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. In the Army, Dr. Kuhlenbeck was assigned to the Office of the Surgeon General in Washington, D.C., as an expert on health and sanitation in the Far East, and then as neuropathologist in the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. After release from active duty, he served as a Civilian Consultant in Neuropathology to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology until 1955.

Dr. Kuhlenbeck was elected as a Fellow to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1947. He spent some of his free time flying; he was a licensed pilot. He traveled extensively, including the International Congress of Anatomists in Oxford, England, in 1950; South America, where he lectured in the Neurological Clinic of the University of Montevideo (Uruguay), the Hortega Institute in Buenos Aires (Argentina), the Universities of Santiago and Concepcion in Chile; the Japanese Association in Hirosaki, Japan (1961); and International Congresses in Paris (1955), Amsterdam (1959), and Kiel (1962). He visited the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany and was elected, in 1963, as a Foreign Scientific Member of the Institute and a member of the Society. He was awarded an honorary degree from Woman’s Medical College in 1965.

The Central Nervous System of Vertebrates, a seven volume work on the entire comparative neuroanatomy of the vertebrates, was completed in 1978. The philosophical background to this was mainly developed in two of his earlier works (Brain and Consciousness, 1957; Mind and Matter, 1961). These two books were summarized in a three-volume work, The Human Brain and its Universe, in 1982. Kuhlenbeck authored over 100 journal during his career.

In 1963, Dr. Kuhlenbeck was appointed Research Professor in Neurobiology at Woman’s Medical College and Emeritus Professor of Anatomy in 1971, a position which he held until 1982 when his wife, Ozelia, passed away and his health began deteriorating rapidly. He passed away December 14, 1984.


63.55 linear feet


Born in Germany in 1897, Dr. Hartwig Kuhlenbeck, a neuroanatomist, received his degrees of Ph.D. in Philosophy and of M.D. (summa cum laude) from the University of Jena, Germany. He spent several years lecturing in Japan and at the University of Breslau (Germany) before moving to the United States in 1933. Dr. Kuhlenbeck was appointed to several positions at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, beginning in 1935 as Acting Professor of Anatomy and retiring in 1982 as Emeritus Professor of Anatomy. He spent most of his professional career at Woman’s Medical College, with the exception of a two-year leave of absence from 1944-1946, when he served in the United States Army Medical Corps. Dr. Kuhlenbeck published over 150 works during his career as a world-renowned anatomist. He passed away in 1984.

Related Materials

WM.300, Doris Bartuska papers: Dr. Bartuska served as Dr. Kuhlenbeck's estate executor. Accession 205, Records the (Woman's Medical College Clinical and Teaching Departments: Duplicate copies and later volumes of the Department of Pathology autopsy reports can be found in this collection. Accession 229, Records of the (Woman's) Medical College Associate Deans: A small biographical file assembled by the Dean's office. Most material is duplicated from this collection.

Separated Materials

Approximately 500 volumes of books were donated along with Dr. Kuhlenbeck's papers. There is no current inventory available. The book collection spans roughly 187 linear feet.

Chrissie Perella
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Repository Details

Part of the Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center Repository

2900 West Queen Lane
Philadelphia PA 19129