The Evolution of Endocrinology

Plenary Lecture at the 12th International Congress of Endocrinology, Lisbon, Portugal, 31 August 2004

Jean D. Wilson


Clin Endocrinol. 2005;62(4):389-396. 

In This Article


Most students of the subject agree that the concept of chemical messengers secreted into the blood to exert systemic effects arose from the presentation of a paper in 1889 to the Societe de Biologie in Paris by Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard, a professor at the College de France and one of the most distinguished physiologists of the nineteenth century. In this lecture, Brown-Séquard[1,2] reported that self-administration of aqueous extracts of animal testes had enhanced his physical strength, improved his intellectual capacity, and increased his sexual potency. This dramatic claim was widely publicized in the lay press as well as within the medical community and made him an instant, controversial celebrity. Brown-Séquard's father was a sea captain from Philadelphia, his mother was French, and he was born on the British island of Mauritius; he claimed citizenship and worked as a scientist in all three countries during his career, so that endocrinology was international from its founding.[3,4] Although an uneasy fascination with rejuvenation continues to haunt our field, the aim today is not to focus on Brown-Séquard but rather on the aftermath of his lecture.


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