Introduction A Collector's Passion:
Carl W. Gottschalk The Kidney in the
The Carl W. Gottschalk Collection History of Medicine
Exhibition Checklist Selections from the
Display Space Carl W. Gottschalk Collection


Carl W. GottschalkA physiologist and kidney researcher of international reputation, Carl W. Gottschalk was born and grew up in Salem, Virginia. He received his B.S. from Roanoke College in 1942 and went on to an accelerated wartime medical school program at the University of Virginia. After receiving his M.D. in 1945, Dr. Gottschalk left Charlottesville for the Boston area, spending most of the next six years there as a research fellow at Harvard University and as an intern and resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. Upon completion of his residency, he accepted a position as cardiology fellow and instructor in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1952. He would remain at UNC until his death in 1997, advancing steadily through the academic ranks to the position of full professor. In recognition of his outstanding achievements in research and teaching, Dr. Gottschalk was named Kenan Professor of Medicine and Physiology in 1969. In 1992 he was named Distinguished Research Professor of Medicine and Physiology.

Dr. Gottschalk's contributions to kidney research are associated with his highly innovative use of the technique of micropuncture in studies of various problems dealing with the process of concentrating urine, in the early 1950s considered one of the most perplexing issues in renal physiology. He set up his micropuncture laboratory shortly after his arrival in Chapel Hill. Over the next two decades, working with Margaret Mylle, William Lassiter and other associates in the laboratory, Dr. Gottschalk published a series of papers that resolved many of these problems and established his reputation as a kidney researcher of the very first rank. Of particular significance was a 1959 study he published with Mylle entitled "Micropuncture Study of the Mammalian Urinary Concentrating Mechanism: Evidence for the Counter-Current Hypothesis" (American Journal of Physiology). Their study challenged prevailing notions concerning the concentrating of urine and confirmed the controversial countercurrent hypothesis as an explanation of the process. In commenting on this particular success, Dr. Gottschalk said that "nothing I had ever done before or have done subsequently was as thrilling as obtaining these data." The work of Dr. Gottschalk and his colleagues also made the Chapel Hill laboratory, in the words of colleague W. Stewart Cameron, "a place of pilgrimage" for researchers to learn micropuncture, which "as a result of [his] work became a dominant technique in physiology for two decades." In recognition of the importance of his work, the American Heart Association appointed him Career Investigator in 1961, a position he held until 1992.

Micropuncture ArticleDuring the course of his long career, Dr. Gottschalk authored or co-authored more than one hundred medical papers, most of them dealing with the kidney. He also acted as co-editor of four editions of Diseases of the Kidney (from the third in 1979 to the sixth in 1997), the standard text on the subject for several decades. He also published extensively as a historian of kidney studies, most notably Renal Physiology: People and Ideas (1987), which he co-edited with Robert Berliner and Gerhard Giebisch. Dr. Gottschalk served on the editorial boards of five professional journals dealing with physiology. He was also active in a broad range of national and international medical associations. For instance, he was president of the American Society of Nephrology in 1975-76 and was a member of its national executive council for three years. In recognition of his many activities and contributions, he was the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees. In 1975 he was elected to the National Academy of Science.

International prominence brought with it new challenges and opportunities. Dr. Gottschalk not only served on a wide range of university committees but also was increasingly active on the national level. In 1966, for example, he was asked to serve as chair of the Special Committee on Renal Disease, a body created by the Bureau of the Budget and charged with examining the extent of serious renal disease in America and recommending appropriate methods for long-term treatment. The Gottschalk Committee, as it came to be known, concluded that the numbers of patients in renal failure who could profit from kidney dialysis treatment were substantial. The committee recommended that the treatment, though expensive, be made available to all and never denied for financial reasons. In 1972 that recommendation was incorporated into federal law.

While working in the Boston area, Dr. Gottschalk met Helen Scott, then a nursing student. They married in 1947 and had three children. Helen Scott Gottschalk died in 1988. Several years later Dr. Gottschalk met Dr. Susan Fellner, a fellow nephrologist, at a medical conference in Maine. They were married in 1996. In October 1997, Dr. Gottschalk died suddenly and unexpectedly. Just a few days before his death, he had been honored by the UNC Friends of the Library for the donation to the library of his splendid collection of first editions of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Desk SilhouetteCarl Gottschalk was an avid collector throughout his life. As a youth, he collected stamps, coins, and butterflies; as an adult, books and Asian art. His passion for collecting butterflies led him at age fifteen to the discovery of one never before seen. Subsequently named the Stryman Cecrops Gottschalkii, this butterfly became the subject of the young Gottschalk's first published scientific article. He continued to collect butterflies in his adult years and developed a significant collection of specimens from the Canadian arctic region. He later donated this collection to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University.

Dr. Gottschalk's interest in collecting important books in the history of medicine and on the kidney grew out of his friendship with Jean Oliver, a distinguished medical researcher and authority on the kidney and himself an enthusiastic book collector. Dr. Oliver later bequeathed his own collection on the history of medicine and the kidney to Dr. Gottschalk, and his bookplates are common among the books now in the Gottschalk Collection at UNC. With patience and perseverance, Dr. Gottschalk built his collection over a period of some forty years, working with a wide range of dealers, mostly in the United States and Great Britain. He combined the scholar's knowledge of what texts were important and why with a true collector's attention to bibliographical issues and physical condition. By the time of his death, he had accumulated what many consider perhaps the most comprehensive collection of printed materials on the kidney in existence.

A Collector's Passion: The Kidney in the History of Medicine

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