History of Diabetes

I was wondering what happened when people 100 years ago got diabetes… well sadly to say they just died there wasn’t much people could do they didn’t know enough. This is what I found.

History of Diabetes

1552 B.C. Earliest known record of diabetes mentioned on 3rd Dynasty Egyptian papyrus by physician Hesy-Ra; mentions polyuria (frequent urination) as a symptom.

1st Century A.D. Diabetes described by Arateus as ‘the melting down of flesh and limbs into urine.’

c. 164 A.D. Greek physician Galen of Pergamum mistakenly diagnoses diabetes as an ailment of the kidneys.

Up to 11th Century Diabetes commonly diagnosed by ‘water tasters,’ who drank the urine of those suspected of having diabetes; the urine of people with diabetes was thought to be sweet-tasting. The Latin word for honey (referring to its sweetness), ‘mellitus’, is added to the term diabetes as a result.

16th Century Paracelsus identifies diabetes as a serious general disorder.

Early 19th Century First chemical tests developed to indicate and measure the presence of sugar in the urine.

late 1850s French physician, Priorry, advises diabetes patients to eat extra large quantities of sugar as a treatment.

1870s French physician, Bouchardat, notices the disappearance of glycosuria in his diabetes patients during the rationing of food in Paris while under siege by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War; formulates idea of individualized diets for his diabetes patients.

19th Century French researcher, Claude Bernard, studies the workings of the pancreas and the glycogen metabolism of the liver.
Czech researcher, I.V. Pavlov, discovers the links between the nervous system and gastric secretion, making an important contribution to science’s knowledge of the physiology of the digestive system.

Late 19th Century Italian diabetes specialist, Catoni, isolates his patients under lock and key in order to get them to follow their diets.

1869 Paul Langerhans, a German medical student, announces in a dissertation that the pancreas contains contains two systems of cells. One set secretes the normal pancreatic juice, the function of the other was unknown. Several years later, these cells are identified as the ‘islets of Langerhans.’

1889 Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering at the University of Strasbourg, France, first remove the pancreas from a dog to determine the effect of an absent pancreas on digestion.

1900-1915 ‘Fad’ diabetes diets include: the ‘oat-cure’ (in which the majority of diet was made up of oatmeal), the milk diet, the rice cure, ‘potato therapy’ and even the use of opium!

1908 German scientist, Georg Zuelzer develops the first injectible pancreatic extract to suppress glycosuria; however, there are extreme side effects to the treatment.

1910-1920 Frederick Madison Allen and Elliot P. Joslin emerge as the two leading diabetes specialists in the United States. Joslin believes diabetes to be ‘the best of the chronic diseases’ because it was ‘clean, seldom unsightly, not contagious, often painless and susceptible to treatment.’

c. 1913 Allen, after three years of diabetes study, publishes Studies Concerning Glycosuria and Diabetes, a book which is significant for the revolution in diabetes therapy that developed from it.

1919 Frederick Allen publishes Total Dietary Regulation in the Treatment of Diabetes, citing exhaustive case records of 76 of the 100 diabetes patients he observed, becomes the director of diabetes research at the Rockefeller Institute.

1919-20 Allen establishes the first treatment clinic in the USA, the Physiatric Institute in New Jersey, to treat patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and Bright’s disease; wealthy and desperate patients flock to it.

October 31, 1920 Dr. Banting conceives of the idea of insulin after reading Moses Barron’s ‘The Relation of the Islets of Langerhans to Diabetes with Special Reference to Cases of Pancreatic Lithiasis’ in the November issue of Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics. For the next year, with the assistance of Best, Collip and Macleod, Dr. Banting continues his research using a variety of different extracts on de-pancreatized dogs.

Summer 1921 Insulin is ‘discovered’. A de-pancreatized dog is successfully treated with insulin.

December 30, 1921 Dr. Banting presents a paper entitled ‘The Beneficial Influences of Certain Pancreatic Extracts on Pancreatic Diabetes’, summarizing his work to this point at a session of the American Physiological Society at Yale University. Among the attendees are Allen and Joslin. Little praise or congratulation is received.

1940s Link is made between diabetes and long-term complications (kidney and eye disease).

1944 Standard insulin syringe is developed, helping to make diabetes management more uniform.

1955 Oral drugs are introduced to help lower blood glucose levels.

1959 Two major types of diabetes are recognized: type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes and type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.

1960s The purity of insulin is improved. Home testing for sugar levels in urine increases level of control for people with diabetes.

1970 Blood glucose meters and insulin pumps are developed.
Laser therapy is used to help slow or prevent blindness in some people with diabetes.

1983 First biosynthetic human insulin is introduced.

1986 Insulin pen delivery system is introduced.

1993 Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) report is published. The DCCT results clearly demonstrate that intensive therapy (more frequent doses and self-adjustment according to individual activity and eating patterns) delays the onset and progression of long-term complications in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

1998 The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) is published. UKPDS results clearly identify the importance of good glucose control and good blood pressure control in the delay and/or prevention of complications in type 2 diabetes.

(From Canadian Diabetes Association)

See also

Diabetes Information


This diabetes health education project is supported by Chong’s Health Care at http://www.cljhealth.com, one of the leading companies in the discovery of alternative medicines for diabetes.

Interesting stuff!

Wow that is interesting, I was just telling my BF that my grandmother who was born in 1901, when she got Diabetes she ate nothing but oatmeal til her death. She said it was a Old Kind of cure fore Diabetes, CURE! even then I was a Type 1 and didn’t believe it. And then in the early 80’s a woman down the st, seh was very old, she would tell me if you eat a big bowl of White rice for 2 meals your BS will be lower. Ok, I ingnored her to.
But I see on this those were treatments for diabetes when thet didn’t know a thing about it , really…

This is very interesting, and is a great read

I love history, thanks for posting.

Thanks for doing the research and putting this very informative summary on the site. We are fortu nate to live now rather than then.

I was amazed when I learned about the role of the pancreas in diabetes being discovered in 1889, years before they figured out how to deliver insulin successfully.