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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 268-269

1894 – The year of discovery of the first “hormone” and the establishment of a medical college in North India

1 Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and BRIDE, Karnal, Haryana, India
2 Department of Endocrinology, IVY Hospital, Mohali, Chandigarh, Punjab, India
3 Department of Medicine, Endocrine and Diabetes Unit, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab, India

Date of Submission04-Jan-2019
Date of Decision05-Mar-2019
Date of Acceptance07-Apr-2019
Date of Web Publication21-Nov-2019

Correspondence Address:
Jubbin Jagan Jacob
Department of Medicine, Endocrine and Diabetes Unit, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cjhr.cjhr_2_19

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How to cite this article:
Kalra S, Grewal E, Jacob JJ. 1894 – The year of discovery of the first “hormone” and the establishment of a medical college in North India. CHRISMED J Health Res 2019;6:268-9

How to cite this URL:
Kalra S, Grewal E, Jacob JJ. 1894 – The year of discovery of the first “hormone” and the establishment of a medical college in North India. CHRISMED J Health Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Mar 6];6:268-9. Available from: https://www.cjhr.org/text.asp?2019/6/4/268/271330


This year marks the 125th year since the establishment of our alma mater, Christian Medical College by Dame Edith Mary Brown in 1894. The field of endocrinology that we currently specialize in is also a rather young specialty and has only been around since the late 19th century around the time the college was inaugurated. Hence, we were interested in understanding what the state of endocrinological sciences was at the time our college was established in 1894.

Historically, Dr. Charles Brown-Sequard is considered the father of endocrinology by most medical historians. However, some believe this credit should go to Thomas Addison, Claude Bernard or Berthold. Brown-Sequard was born in 1818 in Mauritius, then a British colony; Charles had an American father, a French mother, and British citizenship by birth. At 21, he shifted to Paris to establish a career in writing. But having met with no success with writing, he shifted his attention to medicine and earned his medical degree. His thesis on the physiology of the spinal cord was published in 1846 and subsequent work in neurology is well known and the Brown-Sequard effect is taught to all medical students in the 1st year of physiology in our college.[1]

Much later in his career, he got interested in the internal secretions from glands and in 1856 made his first major contribution to endocrinology by establishing that removal of both adrenal glands in animals was uniformly fatal. Subsequently, in his experiments, he was able to prolong the life of the animals without adrenal glands by injecting extracts of the removed adrenal glands.[1] He was also probably the first of all international globetrotting physicians (like our founder Edith Brown) and between 1853 and 1878 crossed the Atlantic about sixty times, working in England (once), France (six times), and USA (four times). In 1889, at the age of 72, he made his most famous and controversial presentation that daily injections of testicular blood, seminal fluid, and testicular extracts from guinea pigs and dogs made him 30 years younger with significant improvements in muscle strength.[2] This presentation had a huge impact on the medical community with a large segment of physicians labeling the field of endocrinology as “quackery” and not serious medicine. In 1894, in the year our college was established, he passed away in Paris.

Because of this background, the field of endocrinology would probably not have had any serious takers in 1894 when CMC first came into being. But despite the ridicule from some sections of medicine, his intuition about internal secretions would inspire other physicians to further explore the topic. Dramatically in 1894, the year Brown-Sequard died and the year our college was founded, two British physiologists first isolated epinephrine from the adrenal medulla at the University College of London. Sir Edward Albert Schafer together with George William demonstrated and isolated the first hormone that till then had only been postulations and published the seminal paper on the effects of epinephrine on the cardiovascular system. Thus, 1894 was also the year that the first hormone was isolated and the concept of endocrinology started getting more serious attention.[3] Incidentally, Sir Schafer continued to teach at the University College of London and may have taught our founder Dame Brown who studied medicine from 1882 to 91 at both the London School of Medicine for Women and the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women.[4] The London School of Medicine for Women was finally merged with the University College of London once the orthodox sections of British medical fraternity started accepting women trainees.

This historical connection between the discovery of the hormone adrenaline “the fighters hormone” and the establishment of the first Asian medical college for women in 1894 is what we wanted to document to the readers of your journal. We also wanted to highlight from these two stories that initial setbacks, social pressures, and ostracizing experiences are encountered by pioneers. But over time with perseverance, robust ideas continue to shine light in the centuries that come after.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Wilson JD. Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard and the centennial of endocrinology. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1990;71:1403-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
Brown-Sequard C. The effects produced on man by subcutaneous injections of a liquid obtained from the testicles of animals. Lancet 1889;2:105-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
Oliver G, Schäfer EA. The physiological effects of extracts of the suprarenal capsules. J Physiol 1895;18:230-76.  Back to cited text no. 3
Windsor LL. Women in Medicine: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO Publishers; November, 2002. p. 38.  Back to cited text no. 4


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