History of Diabetes

Apollonius of Memphis

Apollonius of Memphis describes a condition with the terms “without retention” (of urine) and “without delay” (of urination).

The history of diabetes was considered a disease of the wealthy in ancient India and was documented in the earliest writings of Hindu scholars way back in  the 1500 BC.  They had already described diabetes as Madhumeha (sweet urine disease) – “a mysterious illness triggering thirst, large amount of urine output, and the ants attracted to the urine.”

Around 250 BC,  the word “diabetes“was coined by Apollonius of Memphis meaning siphon – to pass through and the Latin word for mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet.

In 1675, an English doctor named Thomas Willis added the term “mellitus” to the word diabetes. It was because he found out the sweet taste of the urine.

 In 400-500 CE, Indian physicians named Sushruta and Charaka were among the early pioneers of the treatment of diabetes.

In 1915, a Canadian physician and professor of Johns Hopkins Hospital, is said to have  recommended opium for the treatment of diabetes. In the same year, a young medical German student named Paul Langerhans,  discovered through his research that diabetes have linked to glycogen metabolism, and the islet cells of pancreas.

In 1916, Sharpey-Shafer of Edinburgh recommended that a single chemical was missing in the pancreas and coined its name as “insulin.” The term insulin comes from the German word “Insel” –  meaning an islet or island.

In 1920 an American called Moses Barron connected the Langerhans cells within the pancreas as the basis of diabetes mellitus. This discovery was led by the advancement of insulin use as a treatment based on the work of Canadian scientist Frederick Banting who received his Nobel Prize in 1923 for his dedication in the discovery of insulin. Because that time the treatment of diabetes has concentrated on improving the symptoms of the disease through the use of prescription medication and accepting that diabetes is “incurable”.

In 1936 British scientist Sir Harold Percival (Harry) Himsworth in one of his published work differentiated type 1 and 2 diabetes as different conditions with type 1 diabetes associated with youth also known as juvenile diabetes and type 2 diabetes with obesity.





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