From Switzerland to America
Arnold Carl Klebs was born in Berne, Switzerland, on March 17, 1870, the eldest son of the prominent bacteriologist, pathologist, and tuberculosis specialist, Albrecht Theodor Edwin Klebs and his wife, Marie Rosette Grossenbacher. Edwin Klebs was then on the faculty at the University of Berne, but soon moved his family to Wurzburg, Prague, and Zurich when he accepted different academic appointments. Arnold studied medicine in several places, receiving his degree at the University of Basel in 1895. He stayed an extra year in Basel and then followed his father to the United States in 1896. Edwin Klebs was then professor of pathology at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
Edwin Klebs, a student of Robert Koch, was a leading pathologist, bacteriologist, and tuberculosis specialist of his day. He made numerous major discoveries, but is perhaps best known for providing the first full account of the bacterial cause of diphtheria, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, also known as the Klebs-Loeffler bacillus. A restless genius, Edwin Klebs moved from place to place during his career, always dissatisfied with where he was. Professor of pathology in Berne when Arnold was born, he then transferred to medical faculties in Wurtzburg (1872), Prague (1872), and Zurich (1883). In 1895, he moved to the United States, initially promoting a drug for tuberculosis in North Carolina, and then from 1896 to 1900 serving as professor pathology at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Leaving his library to his son, he returned to Switzerland in 1900. Arnold Klebs’ relationship with his famous father was mixed. He admired his father’s scientific achievements, but was particularly critical of his various attempts to invent and commercialize remedies for tuberculosis.
This is Edwin Klebs' own copy of the first volume of his influential textbook, Handbuch der pathologischen Anatomie, with interleaved pages containing his handwritten notes. It contains a classic description of glomerulonephritis, also known as “Klebs disease”. The book is dedicated to Edwin Klebs’ mentor, Rudolf Virchow. Edwin Klebs left his library to Arnold Klebs and it became part of the latter’s donation to Yale.
The arrow points to Klebs, who came in second in the race.
Arnold Klebs took his final examinations in medicine in 1894 and received his medical degree from the University of Basel in 1895 with this dissertation on edematous changes in the anterior epithelium of the cornea.
This rare brochure describes for the public the facilities of the tuberculosis sanatorium that Klebs founded in Citronelle, Alabama, ca. 1897. His father, Edwin Klebs, was a member of the staff. Arnold Klebs seems to have spent just two seasons there.
This letter of Margaret Forbes to her great-aunt, Amelia H. Jones, February 9, 1898, describes in highly flattering terms Klebs’ management of the sanatorium: “Dr. Klebs is kindness itself & is always doing something for us….His is so honest & straight forward & so interested in his work it is a pleasure to hear him talk about it. I do like to see a man throw himself heart and soul into what he is doing, he is bound to make a success—“ Mrs. Klebs, whom she mentioned, was Arnold Klebs’ mother.
Lent by Manuscripts & Archives, Sterling Memorial Library, Arnold Carl Klebs Papers.
This photograph was taken about the time of Arnold Klebs’ marriage to Margaret Forbes of Milton, Massachusetts on June 14, 1898. Her recurrent respiratory problems had brought her to Klebs’ sanatorium in Alabama, where they met. Their only child Sarah Malcolm Forbes was born in Chicago on May 5, 1899. Margaret Klebs died a few weeks later, on May 28, from puerperal fever. With the help of Margaret’s great-aunt, Amelia H. Jones, Klebs raised his daughter. He remained a widower for a decade.