The Society for Endocrinology Archive

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Timeline of events in endocrinology

  • July 1939 – the first issue of Journal of Endocrinology was published
  • 1939 – Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on sex hormones, in particular the discovery of estrone
  • 1946 – the Society for Endocrinology was formed
  • 1949-50 – Samuel Seidlin was the first to cure metastatic thyroid carcinoma to the skull with RAI
  • 1950 – Hench and Kendall treated rheumatoid arthritis with cortisone
  • 1953 – Frederick Sanger determined the primary structure of insulin
  • 1953 – du Vigneaud became the first to synthesise peptide hormones (oxytocin and vasopressin). He also synthesised vasotocin before it was actually discovered
  • 1955 – Geoffrey Harris demonstrated that pituitary function is controlled by 'humoral' factors
  • 1959 – Gerald Aurbach was the first to isolate parathyroid hormone
  • 1960 – Walter Cannon described the role the autonomic nervous system plays in hormone metabolism
  • 1962 – Earl Sutherland described Cyclic AMP
  • 1977 – Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel prize for the development of the radioimmunoassay
  • 1977 – The end of the 'race to Stockholm': Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally received the Nobel prize for describing the structure of thyroid-stimulating hormone and gonadotropin-releasing hormone in sheep and pigs respectively. Guilemmin and his colleagues were also the first to report the structure of somatostatin
  • 1978 – Louise Joy Brown, the first test tube baby, was born
  • 1986 – Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen receive the Nobel prize for discovering nerve growth factor and epidermal growth factor
  • July 1988 – the first issue of Journal of Molecular Endocrinology was published
  • March 1994 – the first issue of Endocrine-Related Cancer was published
  • 2009 – 70 years after the journal was launched, the 200th volume of Journal of Endocrinology was published and the Society for Endocrinology journals archive went online
  • 2012 – The open-access journal Endocrine Connections was launched jointly with the European Society of Endocrinology
  • 2013 – the Society for Endocrinology endorses the open-access clinical case publication Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism Case Reports

1939: A landmark year for endocrinology

The idea of founding a British journal dedicated to research in endocrinology was first discussed on a bus to Croydon airport in 1937. Charles Dodds, Frank Young, Alan Parkes and Solly Zuckerman were en route to Paris for the first international conference on sex hormones when Zuckerman expressed his frustration with the difficulty in getting papers published. By the time they returned the proposal was being discussed in earnest. Seeking advice from Arthur Tansley, who had launched The New Phytologist in 1902, they learned that the journal should be owned by a society and backed by a guarantee to cover any financial deficit during the early stages. In addition to the 'bus quartet', six other guarantors were found, each providing £40. The ten guarantors became a Managing Committee, and subsequently formed a Council of Management of Journal of Endocrinology Ltd. This was a non-profit organisation limited by guarantee, with the aims of owning and publishing a scientific journal.

Having decided on a publisher, the Company set about advertising the new journal to potential subscribers in preparation for its launch. A prospectus was distributed by a number of British scientific journals and an announcement appeared in Nature:

"A NEW journal, to be devoted to endocrinological subjects, under the title Journal of Endocrinology, has recently been founded. Its scope will be the publication of communications which advance knowledge concerning the internally secreting glands, the mode of their actions, the nature of their secretions, and the disorders of their functions... There may be some who question the desirability of any step which might seem to accentuate the division of the field of medical and biological sciences into specialized departments and groups, but there can be little doubt as to the necessity for this new journal... The foundation of this journal was preceded by consultation with the editorial boards of a large number of journals, and it is significant that, without exception, these boards were in favour of the project."

Nature 143 972–972 (10 June 1939)

As a result, 250 subscribers signed up for the journal, which was to be published four times a year at an initial price of 30s.

Since then, the journal has published the very best in endocrine research, and 2009 saw the launch of the Society for Endocrinology journals Archive. Some key papers from the archive are available free to view online. The timeline to the right charts the major events in endocrinology over the last 70 years.

The original Journal of Endocrinology editors


  • Prof. EC Dodds

Assistant editor:

  • Dr RL Noble

Editorial board:

  • Dr PMF Bishop
  • Prof. CR Harington
  • Prof. GF Marrian
  • Dr AS Parkes
  • Dr FG Young
  • Dr S Zuckerman

What else was happening that year?

In 1939...

  • ...Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.
  • ...The Wizard of Oz premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
  • ...Siam was renamed Thailand, meaning 'free land'.
  • ...John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath was published.
  • ...Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister of the UK and Franklin D Roosevelt was President of the USA.
  • ...Batman, created by Bob Kane for DC Comics, made his first appearance in a comic book.
  • ...New York hosted the 1939 World's Fair.
  • ...Al Capone was released from Alcatraz.
  • ...The Spanish Civil War ended.
  • ...Nylon stockings went on sale for the first time.
  • ...France's last public execution took place: murderer Eugene Weidmann was decapitated by guillotine.
  • ...Gone With the Wind, at the time the longest film ever made, was released.
  • ...The word 'dord' was discovered in Webster's New International Dictionary and subsequently removed. It had been mistakenly included for 5 years, complete with definition, as a result of an editorial error.

A brief history of endocrinology

Endocrinology is the study of hormones but, as a united discipline, it is a fairly recent development. Endocrine disorders, however, have been recognised and studied individually throughout history.

The French physician Lancereaux first classified the two types of diabetes, calling them diabete gras (fat diabetes) and diabete maigre (thin diabetes).

Extracts of testes and thyroid glands had been prescribed in Chinese medicine: thyroid gland (with seaweed and mollusc shell) as a treatment for goitre in 650 AD by Sun Ssu-Mo, and testes for impotence, hypogonadism and other disorders in 1132 AD by Hsu Shu-Wei.

Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard reported increased virility after injecting himself with extracts from bull testes, declaring that the procedure had taken 30 years off his age. His announcement caused a sensation and led to the development of endocrinology as a field of research, as well as a slew of requests for the treatment from aging men. The inabilibity to reproduce his results, and the later discovery that testes actually contain very little testosterone, finally disproved the claim.

Secretin and gastrin were the first hormones to be discovered (in 1902 and 1904 respectively) by William Bayliss and Ernest Starling.

The word 'hormone' was first used by Ernest Starling in 1905. From the Greek όρμάω (hormao), meaning 'I excite or arouse', the word soon came to describe any chemical produced in one part of the body and distributed via the blood to perform some function in another part of the body. His discovery originally met with criticism, because at the time it was believed that bodily functions were controlled only by the nervous system.