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Who discovered diabetes?



Who discovered diabetes?


Diabetes has been around for a very long time. I have a book called "Classic Descriptions of Disease" edited by Ralph Major. It includes accounts concerning diabetes dating to the Egyptians in 1500 B.C. There are detailed descriptions of the disease process attributed to Aretaeus the Cappadocian in the 2nd century A.D. and to Paracelsus (not indicated when he lived). It was not until the 1600`s however that we have a description that in diabetes, the urine was sweet "as if imbued with sugar or honey" (which means somebody tasted the urine back then!). Dr Matthew Dobson wrote in England in 1776 that that sweetness was due to sugar. In 1889, Drs. J.V. Mering and Oskar Minkowski showed that they could cause diabetes in animals by removing the pancreas. Dr Eugene Opie showed in 1900 that the diabetes was associated with degeneration of a group of cells in the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans and then Banting and Best showed in 1922 that a protein they could extract from pancreases that they called "insulin" could help to control diabetes. So that is a somewhat long answer to your question. But it illustrates the extent to which discovery and progress in medicine and biology and in science in general is a process that requires new insights from different people over time.

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Response by:

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati