Dr. Gabriele Rabel was born in 1880, the youngest of three children of a prosperous Viennese lawyer. She studied biology under Professor Richard Wettstein at the University of Vienna, Austria and then did experimental work on the colour adaptation of certain low plants to their surroundings. After some years working in the laboratories of Schaum and Hering in Leipzig, Germany, of Wien in Wurzburg and of Johannes Stark in Griefswald, Gabriele Rabel turned to the study of theoretical physics, becoming a pupil of Des Coudres in Leipzig and Max Planck and Albert Einstein in Berlin. She received her doctorate in physics for a thesis entitled "The Intensity of Certain Lines of the H-Spectrum as Dependent on Gas Pressure".
In 1923, Dr. Rabel became seriously ill, was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression and spent two years in a sanatorium. She had by now turned her attention to the study of philosophy and was involved with Rudolph Steiner and Count Hermann Keyserling. She published numerous articles in news- papers and journals on Steiner's Anthroposophy and on Keyserling, Hans Driesch and the doctrines of Ernst Mach.
Dr. Rabel turned then to philological research, working in the Goethe Archives in Weimar and in 1927 she published a book on Goethe and Kant. That same year she left on a lecture tour of the United States where she remained for four years giving lectures on Austrian history and culture and a wide range of philosophical and general topics.
In the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, Dr. Rabel was publishing articles in scientific journals on evolution and genetics amongst other subjects and in 1940 she was writing a book on Kaiser Karl, the last Habsburg emperor. By this time she was living in Cambridge where she had become a friend of Otto Frisch, the physicist and a number of other scientific members of the University. She lived in the Cambridge area to be over 80.
Throughout her life, Dr. Gabriele Rabel kept diaries in which she described in great detail her work in biology, theoretical physics, philosophy and philology, her life in Germany and Austria from the end of the 19th century until the late 1920s, and in the United States at the end of the 1920s and some of the famous scientists and philosophers with whom she worked and under whom she studied. At the age of 80, settled near Cambridge, she resolved to translate passages from these diaries which, supplemented by letters, provide the bulk of the collection. They are particularly interesting for the light they shed on figures such as the scientists Richard Wettstein, Max Planck and Albert Einstein and the philosophers Hermann Keyserling and Rudolph Steiner.
The diaries together with published and unpublished writings of Dr. Rabel's were given to Churchill College by her executors, Dr. Ronald Gray of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Dr. S.M. Walters, Director of Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Mrs. E.A. Lainson, in November 1973. Further accessions were made in April 1981, August 1988 and April 1991.
The papers are owned by Churchill College, Cambridge.
The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.
Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.
Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Gabriele Rabel, RABL
A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, the National Register of Archives, London and on the Janus website, http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/.
This finding aid was adapted by Katharine Thomson of Churchill Archives Centre in April 2005 from an existing catalogue.