- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Robert Abbe

Born  1852-04-13
Died  1928-03-07

Related eponyms

    American surgeon and pioneer radiologist, born April 13, 1851, New York City; died March 7, 1928.

    Biography of Robert Abbe

    Robert Abbe was born in New York City and attended the College of the City of New York before he studied medicine at Columbia University, becoming M.D. in 1874.

    Abbe was most known as a plastic surgeon, and between 1877 and 1884 he served as a surgeon and professor of surgery at the New York Hospital, attending surgeon to St. Luke's Hospital, and the New York Babies Hospital, as well as consulting surgeo to the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled, and professor of surgery to the Post-Graduate School and Hospital in New York City.

    During this time, he would spend summers travelling, and he amassed a large collection of Native American artifacts and archeological materials. In 1927, he founded the Abbe Museum of Native American artifacts in the Abbe Museum in Acadia National Park, Maine.

    In 1904, after corresponding with Professor and Madame Curie, he visited their laboratories in Paris. Joining in their groundbreaking research. He became a friend of the Curies and in particular Marie Curie of whom he collected many photographs. He documented the production of radium and with Marie Curie he explored the medical use of radiation and x-rays.

    From the Curie laboratory in Paris he brought back to the U.S. a supply of radium to use in his surgical practice in New York. Thus he became the founder of radiation therapy in the United States.
    In 1904, he introduced the practice of using radiation to treat cancer and founded the science of radiation oncology.

    Abbe was a vigorous opponent of the use of tobacco which he considered a cause of cancer and reported over 100 cases of smoker's cancer. In later years, at his Bar Harbor summer home, "Brook End," Abbe created a garden in whose pool floated two swans – Pierre and Marie.

    Robert Abbe is also remembered for performing one of the first cholecystectomies, in 1889. He opened the duct of a 36-year-old woman with severe jaundice, removed a stone, sewed the duct closed with fine silk, and returned her to perfect health. She was still in good health when the operation was recorded, in 1893. In 1892, he introduced the use of catgut rings for for supporting the ends of intestine during anastomosis.

    He died of anaemia, possibly due to his work handling radium.


    • An operation for the relief of anchylosis of the temporo-maxillary joint, by exsection of the neck of the condyle of the lower jaw; with remarks. The New York Medical Journal, 1880, 31: 362.
    • Dupuytren's contraction of the fingers. Illustrated Medicine and Surgery, New York, 1882, 1: 41-42.
    • A peculiar affection of the finger tips. The New York Medical Journal, 1884, 40: 623.
    • On Dupuytren's finger-contraction; its nervous origin.The New York Medical Journal, 1884, 39: 436, 461.
    • On Dupuytren's finger-contraction; its nervous origin. The Transactions of the New York Academy of Medicine, 1886, 4: 239.
    • Trigger finger. The Medical News, Philadelphia, 1886, 49: 638.
    • Dupuytren’s finger contraction: further remarks on the theory of its nervous origin. The Medical Record, New York, 1888, 33: 236-239.
    • Thiersch’s method of skin grafting: a great step in surgical progress. The Postgraduate, N Y, 1891-1892, 7: 295.
    • Surgery of the hand (Wesley M. Carpenter Lecture before the New York Academy of Medicine). Published by the New York Academy of Medicine.New York State Journal of Medicine, 1894, 59: 33-40.
    • Hare lip and cleft palate. Read before the Clinical Society, December 1, 1894.
    • Hare lip and cleft palate. Post-Graduate N Y, 1895, 10: 15.
    • Plastic operations on the hands. Annals of Surgery, Philadelphia, 1896, 23: 185.
    • Angioma of entire upper extremity. Annals of Surgery, Philadelphia, 1897, 25: 361.
    • Late result of Humphrey's operation for ankylosis of lower jaw.Annals of Surgery, Philadelphia, 1897, 26: 245.
    • New method of creating a vagina in a case of congenital absence.The Medical Record, New York, 1898, 54: 836-838.
    • Intestinal anastomosis and suturing. The Medical Record, New York, 1892, 41: 365-370. Abbe introduced catgut rings for intestinal suturing. See also Med News, Philadelphia, 1899, 54: 589-592.
    • A contribution to the surgery of the spine.The Medical Record, New York, 1889, 35:149-152. Posterior rhizotomy.
    • A new plastic operation for the relief of deformity due to double harelip. The Medical Record, New York, 1898, 53, 477-478. Abbe’s lip-switch flap, transferring a full thickness flap from obe lip the oral cavity to fill a defect in the other. The Abbe-Estlander operation.
    • A new plastic operation for the relief of deformity due to double harelip. The Medical Record, New York, 1898, 53: 477. (Reprinted and commentary by Richard Stark in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Hagerstown 1968, 42 (5): 480-483
    • Three cases of drop finger. The Medical Record, New York, 1899, 56: 134.
    • On what lines is the treatment of malignant disease advancing? The Medical Record, New York, 1904, 66: 1041.
    • The problems of surgery (The Jerome Cochran Lecture). The Alabama Medical Journal, Birmingham, 1905, 17: 295-307.
    • Malignant disease of the tongue and mouth. The Medical Record, New York, 1913, 83: 461.
    • A subcutaneous cut to cure trigger-finger or snap-finger. The Medical Record, New York, 1914, 85: 426.
    • Case of plastic operation on the nose. The Medical Record, New York, 1915, 87: 921.
    On Abbe and his work:

    • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
    • Anonymous. Obituary: Robert Abbe, MD. The Medical Journal and Record, 1928, 127: 450.
    • R. B. Stark: Robert Abbe and his contributions to plastic surgery. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 1953, 32: 41-58.
    • H. Parsons: Robert Abbe: pioneer in plastic surgery. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, New York 1955, 31 (12): 927-950.
    • H. Parsons: Robert Abbe: pioneer in neurosurgery. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, New York, 1956, 32: 57.
    • Sidney M. Silverstone: Robert Abbe: Founder of Radium Therapy in America. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, February 1956, 32 (2): 157-160.
    • S. P. Frileck: More on Robert Abbe’s Contributions to the Field of Plastic Surgery. Annals of Plastic Surgery, Boston, 1979, 3 (4): 357-360.
    • R. J. Triana: Robert Abbe, MD. Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, Chicago, 2000, 2: 74.

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