Know your Diabetes ❯ Know the History

Know the History

The long journey into present
The word diabetes comes from Latin diabētēs, which literally means "excessive discharge of urine". The word mellitus comes from the classical Latin word mellītus, meaning "mellite" (i.e. sweetened with honey; honey-sweet).
1552 BCE
Egyptian physician Hesy-Ra of the 3rd Dynasty makes the first known mention of diabetes – found on the Ebers Papyrus – and lists remedies to combat the ‘passing of too much urine.'

120 CE
Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappodocia gives the first complete medical description of diabetes, which he likens to ‘the melting down of flesh and limbs into urine.

In his treatise Pharmaceutice rationalis, Professor Thomas Willis of Oxford University describes the ‘wonderfully sweet’ flavour of urine in diabetes mellitus.

German medical student Paul Langerhans discovers the islet cells of the pancreas but is unable to explain their function. The find is dubbed the ‘islets of Langerhans.

November 17, 1921
Banting and Best discover that extract from cattle foetal pancreas lowers blood sugar levels of depancreatized dogs, leading them toward plentiful, cheap sources for insulin. Experiments begin to test the long-term effectiveness of insulin treatment.

January 1922
Leonard Thompson, 14, a ‘charity patient’ at the Toronto General Hospital, becomes the first person to receive and injection of insulin to treat diabetes. Thompson lives another 13 years before dying of pneumonia at age 27.

August 16, 1922
Elizabeth Evans Hughes, 13, daughter of U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, arrives in Toronto to be treated by Banting for her diabetes. Weighing only 45 pounds and barely able to walk, Elizabeth responds immediately to the insulin treatment, and goes on to live a productive life. She dies in 1981 at age 73.

October 25, 1923
Banting and Macleod are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Banting shares his award with Best, while Macleod shares his with Collip.

Hans Christian Hagedorn, founder of Novo Nordisk, discovers that adding protamine to insulin prolongs the duration of action of the medication.

The standard insulin syringe is introduced so to make diabetes management more uniform.

First pancreas transplant performed at the University of Minnesota Hospital.

September 14, 1971
Anton Hubert Clemens receives the first patent for a portable blood glucose meter called the Ames Reflectance Meter. Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, an insulin dependent physician with diabetes, uses the meter to monitor his blood glucose at home, and subsequently publishes a report on his experiences.

David Goeddel from pharmaceutical firm Genentech indicated that the first rDNA human insulin was created. Later that year, Genentech and pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly signed an agreement to commercialize biosynthetic human insulin.

After 10 years of clinical study, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) report is published and clearly demonstrates that intensive therapy delays the onset and progression of long-term complications in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) scientifically inks the control of glucose levels and blood pressure control to the delay and possible prevention of type 2 diabetes.

March 1999
Scientists conduct the first successful islet transplant at the University of Alberta Hospital. The surgical procedure becomes known as The Edmonton Protocol.

December 20, 2006
The United Nations recognizes diabetes as a global threat and designates World Diabetes Day, November 14 – in honour of Frederick Banting’s birthday – as a UN Day to be observed every year starting in 2007.


Sri Lanka Diabetes Federation is a comprehensive national programme, which has been designed with the key objective of preventing diabetes and related complications. It was launched on 01.10.2015 as the public arm of Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists.
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