History of Diabetes, What Good Will It Do?


The history of diabetes started as early as 1552 BCE, when people already had an inkling about diabetes. The proof? During the 3rd Dynasty, Hesy-Ra, an Egyptian physician was the first to ever mention diabetes. They found the evidence on the Ebers Papyrus where cures to fight the condition of passing a great deal of urine were listed.

Then in 250 BCE, Arateus talked about diabetes as the "melting down of limbs and flesh into urine." By120 CE, Aretaeus from Cappodocia gave the first full account of diabetes and borrowed what Arateus said in 250 BCE. This kept the history of diabetes alive and well.

It was not until 1425 when the diabete (without the s) appeared for the first time as an English word. By the 16th century, Phillipus Aureolus Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, identified diabetes to be a severe disorder. No wonder he was considered Medicine's Martin Luther. There's no telling what he would have done had he lived to this very day. The history of diabetes may have turned out differently then.

A professor from Oxford University, Thomas Willis, was the first to describe the sweet taste of urine in Pharmaceutice rationalis in the condition which is called diabetes mellitus in 1674. Believe it or not, they had tasters for this sort of thing. Yikes! I will turn down that job even if they offered me a million dollars.

The 1700s found John Rollo, a Scottish physician, produced the first medical treatment for diabetes. Do you know what it is? It is an animal diet consisting of blood pudding and meat that's fat and stale. Another well-deserved yikes, I would say.

By the 1800s, a medical student Paul Langerhans discovered the islet cells of the pancreas and because a French doctor, Apollinaire Bouchardat, after he observed that the glycosuria disappeared among the diabetics during the war from inadequate food, put his patients on a diet to treat diabetes. By this time, scientists Minkowski and von Mering showed that when the pancreas were removed from the dogs, diabetes was the result.

The 1900s was a banner century for the history of diabetes. Scroll down to see what was added to the history of diabetes where you will also find Frederick Banting‘s (whose picture appears below) contribution:


  • 1901- Eugene Opie, an American pathologist from John Hopkins, established the link between the malfunction of the islets in the pancreas and diabetes.
  • 1913- Diabetes: Its Pathological Physiology was written by Professor John Macleod.
  • 1916- Elliott Joslin wrote the textbook The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus.
  • 1919- Rockefeller Institute's Dr. Frederick Allen published Total Dietary Regulations in the Treatment of Diabetes.
  • 1921- Canada's Dr. Banting's work led to the discovery of insulin. This is a significant discovery that turned the history of diabetes around.
  • 1922- The first person, Leonard Thompson, received the injection of insulin at Toronto General Hospital and lived for another 13 years before succumbing to pneumonia.
  • 1922- US Secretary of State Charles Hughes' daughter Elizabeth, 13 who was just 45 pounds and almost unable to walk was treated by Banting. Responding right away to insulin therapy, she lived a productive life till 73 years old.
  • 1923- Banting and Macleod received the Nobel Prize.
  • 1944- Diabetes management was made easier with the introduction of the standard insulin syringe.
  • 1959- Researchers recognized type 1 diabetes as insulin dependent and type 2 as non-insulin dependent.
  • 1960- There was improvement in the purity of insulin and home testing improved control.
  • 1966- University of Manitoba had the first transplantation of pancreas.
  • 1970- Insulin pumps and blood glucose meters arrived. Laser therapy helped slow down or avoid blindness for the diabetics.
  • 1982- Eli Lilly developed the first human insulin.
  • 1986- The insulin pen delivery was introduced.
  • 1992- Clinical Practice Guidelines of the Canadian Diabetes Association was published in the Canadian Medical Journal and became a model for other countries in 1998.
  • 1993- The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial reported after ten years of clinical study that intensive treatment delays the start and progress of complications for type 1 diabetics.
  • 1998- UKPDS (United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study) reported on the connection of glucose level and blood pressure control to the delay and perhaps prevention of type 2 diabetes.
  • 1999- The hospital at the University of Alberta is the site for the first triumphant islet transplantation, definitely one for the books on the history of diabetes.

Now do you agree that the 1900s have given rise to treatment option? Does the world need more? Certainly. So in 2006, the United Nations declared diabetes a world-wide threat and identified November 14 as World Diabetes Day in honor of Banting's birthday to be observed every year beginning in 2007.

That's the history of diabetes. Hopefully we've learned a thing or two from this. To apply what we learned for our own self-care is the ultimate reward for detailing the data and will be a critical influence on keeping us strong and active.

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