Timeline

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Year

Event

2700 BC

Emperor Shen Nung’s prescriptions (first published in Pen Tsao, the herbal of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, 1596) mentions the use of seaweed for the treatment of goiter

300 BC

Ayur Veda, Hindu holy text, discusses goiter.

40 BC

Pliny, Vitruvius, and Juvenal describe prevalence of goiter in the Alps and use of burnt seaweed for treatment.

138 AD

Greek physician, Soranus, mentions neck swelling following pregnancy

340

Ko-Hung, Chinese alchemist, recommends seaweed for treatment of goiter among people living in mountains

650

Sun Ssu-Mo, a Chinese physician, uses dried, powdered mollusc shells and chopped thyroid gland for the treatment of goiter

961

Abul Kasim, personal physician to Caliph El-Hakin III of Codoba, is first to describe thyroidectomy for goiter and to perform a needle biopsy of the thyroid.

1170

Roger of Salerno uses seaweed in the treatment of goiter

1200

Arnaldus de Villanova reports that marine sponges could be used to treat goiters of recent origin in the young

1475

Chinese physician, Wang Hei, recommends treatment of goiter with minced thyroid.

1500

Leonardo da Vinci is first person to recognize and draw the thyroid gland

1543

Andreas Vesalius provides first anatomic description and illustration of the thyroid gland

1563

Eustachius introduces the term “isthmus” to describe tissue connecting the two lobes of the thyroid

1602

Felix Platter gives first description of cretins (see 1754) found in Valais region of Switzerland.

1656

Thomas Wharton names gland “thyroid” after the shape of an ancient Grecian shield

1669

Albrecht van Haller describes constipation as a complication of cretinism

1754

First use of the term “cretin” in the medical literature. The term is derived from the Latin “christianus” as affected individuals are incapable of committing a sin

1789

F.E. Fodere suggests an association between goiter and cretinism

1802

Giuseppe Flajani, personal physician to Pope Pius VII (1800-1823), described association of palpitations, goiter, and bulging of the eyes. This triad was known as Morbus Flajani.

1811

Bernard Courtois discovers iodine by oxidizing burnt seaweed (i.e. kelp) with sulfuric acid

1813

Gay-Lussac names the vapor discovered by Courtois iodine, from the Greek word for violet

1818

Goiter reported in British Columbia

1820

Jean Francois Coindet concludes that iodine deficiency causes goiter and begins treatment of goiter with iodine.

1824

Alexander von Humboldt reports endemic goiter in Andes. He observes that goiter size decreases by 1/3 when an individual moves to an area where goiter is not endemic

1825

C. Parry describes exophthalmic goiter

1825

Boussingault detects iodine in the natural salt from mines in the northern Andes. Working in Bogota, he then recommends iodinated salt to prevent and treat endemic goiter

1829

JGA Lugol recommends use of aqueous solution of iodine made from KI for treatment of scrofula (a neck mass from a goiter and cervical adenopathy due to tuberculosis and lymphoma were considered identical processes)

1831

Francisco Freire-Allemao, a Brazilian physician, proposes iodine prophylaxis as a government-administered public health program, for goiter prevention.

1834

Robert Graves describes a syndrome of palpitations, goiter, and exophthalmos in three women.

1848

C. von Basedow describes exophthalmic goiter

1849

J.L. Prevost adds iodine to food and water to prevent goiter

1850

T.B. Curling describes cretinism with athyreosis

1851

A. Chatin detects iodine in freshwater plants and recommends these as prophylaxis for endemic goiter based upon his theory that goiter is due to low little iodine in drinking water

1857

B. Niepce describes enlargment of sella turcica in cretins with hypothyroidism in Switzerland

1857

Maurice Schiff successfully performs total thyroidectomies in animals

1860

R. Virchow suggests that cretinism and goiter are related

1862

A. Trousseau introduces the term “Graves disease”

1864

Baillarger reports occurrence of goiter in animals where goiter and cretinism are widespread

1867

A. von Graefe describes lid lag in thyrotoxicosis (Basedow’s disease)

1873

Th. Billroth describes tetany following total thyroidectomy

1877

William Gull publishes “On a Cretinoid State Supervening in Adult Life in Women”

1882

William Ord coins term myxedema to describe middle aged women with cretinoid features

1883

J.L. Reverdin describes cretinism following thryoidectomy.

1883

Heinrich Bircher recognizes association of endemic goiter with geologic features characteristic of Quarternary glaciation

1883

E.T. Kocher calls attention to myxedema following thyroidectomy. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1909 for his work on the thyroid gland.

1884

First report of the use of thyroidectomy for the treatment of Graves’ disease.

Rehn L. Ueber die Exstirpation des Kropfs bei Morbus Basedowii. Berl Klin Wochenschr 1884; 21: 163-166.

1886

Pierre Marie describes the characteristic tremor of hyperthyroidism

1888

Rogowitsch observes pituitary hyperplasia in rabbits following thyroidectomy

1891

F.D. von Recklinghausen reports on the occurrence of osteoporosis in hyperthyroidism

1891

Victor Horsley, using monkeys, shows that myxedema, cretinism, and post-thyroidectomy cachexia are all due to a deficiency of thyroid function.

1891

G.R. Murray introduces the use the thyroid extract to treat myxedema

1895

Aldolf Magnus Levy describes the influence of the thyroid on the basal metabolic rate

1896

E. Drechsel discovers first iodine-containing protein, “gorgonin”, in the axial skeleton of coral.

1896

Eugen Baumann discovers iodine as a natural constituent of the thyroid and names it “iodothyrin”.

1896

B. Riedel publishes first description of chronic, fibrous thyroiditis.

1896

Vaughan Pendred describes assocation of goiter with deaf-mutism.
(Pendred V. Deaf-mutism and goitre. Lancet ii:532, 1896.)

1898

W. Osler publishes case reports of sporadic cretinism, some of whom had a family history of goiter.

1898

von Notthalt describes thryotoxicosis factitia and suggests that excess thyroid hormone produces Graves disease.

1902

F. de Quervain describes subacute granulomatous thyroiditis

1905

Robert Abbe treats Graves disease by implanting radium into the patient’s goiter

1907

H.L. Wheeler and G.S. Jamieson show that gorgonia, from coral, is diiodotyrosine.

1907

David Marine publishes that iodine is necessary for thyroid function.

1907

David Marine recommends treating Graves disease with iodine

1909

Theodor Kocher was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work on the physiology, pathology, and surgery of the thyroid gland. In the late 19th century, the resection of the thyroid was feared because of its high mortality rate. Kocher’s innovative techniques resulted in safe outcomes. His observations that radical resection of the thyroid results in "cachexia strumipriva" contributed to the recognition that the thyroid is essential for normal growth, development and metabolism.

1910

Charles H. Mayo introduces term “hyperthyroidism” to describe the clinical conditions of primary exophthalmic goiter, toxic adenoma, and adenomatous goiter with hyperthyroidism.

1911

D. Marine and C.H. Lenhart describe hyperthyroidism due to Graves disease and concomitant functioning thyroid

1911

Henry Plummer from the Mayo Clinic distinguishes exophthalmic goiter from adenomatous goiter

1912

Kocher coins term Jod Basedow for iodine overdosage.

1912

J.F. Gudernatsch observes that thyroid extract has a specific effect on accelerating the differentiation (metamorphosis) in amphibian larva.

1912

A. Seidell and F. Fenger describe the seasonal variation in thyroid iodine content.

1913

Massachusetts General Hospital establishes Thyroid Unit under the direction of J.H. Means.

1914

H. Hashimoto publishes 4 cases of a thyroid disorder characterized by a diffuse lymphocytic infiltration and fibrosis of the gland.

1914

E.C. Kendall isolates thyroxine, a name he creates from a contraction of the term "thyroxindole".

1916

Phillip E. Smith and Bennet M. Allen independently report that hypophysectomized tadpoles show thyroid involution and do not undergo metamorphosis.

1916

H. Hunziker proposes that endemic goiter is due to regional iodine deficiency, which in turn was the result of abundent precipitation in the mountains and alluvial loss of soluble iodine salts.

1917

M. Seymour in Boston reports on the use of x-rays to treat Graves disease.

1917

thyroxine introduced into commercial distribution in the United States for $350 per gram.

1920

Marine and Kimball successfully use iodine prophylaxis to prevent ovine and porcine athyreosis and trout goiter.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital Reports – Part A (PDF, 4.28 MB)
The Johns Hopkins Hospital Reports – Part B (PDF 4.58 MB)
The Johns Hopkins Hospital Reports – Part C (PDF File, 5.90 MB)

1923

P.E. Smith and I.P. Smith show that bovine pituitary extracts could stimulate the thyroid of a hypopituitary tadpole.

1924

H.S. Plummer at the Mayo Clinic report on the pre-operative use of iodine for the treatment of Graves disease.

1924

George Hevesy introduces concept of radioactive tracers for the study of metabolic pathways. He receives Nobel Prize for this work in 1943.

1926

McClendon reports that the iodine concentration in rainwater and in drinking water decreases as one travels from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes.

1927

Harington determines chemical structure of thyroxine.

1928

Harington and Barger synthesize thyroxine.

1930

A. Chesney, T. Clawson, and B. Webster show that vegetables can cause goiter by showing that rabbits fed cabbage develop enlarged thyroids.

1931

L. Loeb and R. Bassett extract and purify TSH from bovine pituitaries.

1932

Naffziger introduces orbital decompression for the the treatment of exophthalmos.

1934

New Jones Motor Basal (PDF File, 100 KB)

1935

Roy O. Greep demonstrates that pituitary TSH differs from LH and FSH.

1936

Dr. Saul Hertz first proposes the use of radioactive iodine for the
study of the thyroid.

1936

Marine describes cyanide goiter.

1936

Barker identifies goiter as a complication of thiocyanate treatment of hypertension.

1937-1943

Saul Hertz, working in the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Thyroid Unit under the direction of James Means, and Arthur Roberts, a physicist working in the laboratory of Robley Evans at MIT, are the first to use radioactive iodine to study thyroid physiology and treat hyperthyroidism.

1943

Kennedy observes that thiourea is goitrogenic

1946

A. Astwood used thiourea and thiouracil for the medical treatment of Graves disease.

1947

Cope, Rawson, and McArthur report first use of radioactive iodine to demonstrate a “hot” thyroid nodule

1948

H. Pemberton sends letter to The Lancet describing his eponymous sign for a substernal goiter.

1948

T. Tempka, J. Aleksandrowicz, M. Till publish the use of fine needle thyroid biopsy as a diagnostic method

1949

R.G. Hoskins describes negative feedback of thyroid on pituritary, a mechanism which he termed “servo (feedback) mechanism”.

1949

J. Wolff and I. Chaikoff describe the regulatory effects of inorganic iodine on the thyroid.

1949

Jones, Kornfeld, McLaughlin and Anderson synthesize methimazole.

1950

J.B. Stanbury describes first case of a genetic abnormality of thyroid hormone synthesis.

1951

B. Duffy and P. Fitzgerald call attention to thyroid cancer in children following head and neck irradiation.

1952

Lawson, Rimington, and Searle synthesize carbimazole.

1954

J. Gross and R. Pitt-Rivers isolate and synthesize T3.

1954

J.B. Stanbury, J.B. Wyngaarden, and A. Godley describe use of perchlorate in treatment of hyperthyroidism.

1954

J.B. Stanbury provides definitive proof of Jod Basedown in course of treating endemic goiter in Menduza, Argentena.

1956

Goldschmidt, a Norweigen geochemist, identifies Quarternary glaciation as cause of iodine deficiency in soil.

1956

Roitt and Doniach demonstrate autoantibodies in Hashimoto’s disease.

1959

J.B. Hazard, W.A. Hawk, and G. Crile identify medullary thyroid cancer as a distinct entity.

1960

Adams, Purves, and McKenzie discover LATS in the serum of Graves disease patients.

Thorndike Thyroid Group, 1960 (PDF File, 1.04 MB)

1962

Robert Pendleton, a radiation ecologist at the University of Utah, provides first documentation of I-131 release from atmospheric nuclear testing.

1963

D.H. Copp, A.G.F. Davidson, and B. A. Cheney provide first description of calcitonin.

Lewis Braverman MD, receives the 1963 Van Meter Award from Theodore Winship MD. Seated is Virginia Kneeland‐Frantz MD (PDF File, 1.05 MB)

1965

S. Berson and R. Yalow develop radioimmunoassay procedure, and R. Yalow receives Nobel Prize for this work in 1977.

1965

E.D. Williams reports 17 cases of cancer of the thyroid and pheochromocytoma.

1966

R.F. Rohner, J.T. Prior, and J.H. Sipple describe the first cases of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2.

1967

S. Refetoff and L. DeGroot identify thyroid hormone resistance.

1969

Neonatal screening for congenital metabolic disease introduced in Switzerland.

1970

A. Schally identifies TRH and receives Noble Prize for this work in 1977.

1970

L. Braverman, S. Ingbar, and K. Sterling discover T4 to T3 conversion.

1971

Hetzel publishes his classic paper on the prenatal neuropathology of iodine deficiency.

Pharoah POD, Butfied IH, Hetzel BS. Neurological damage to the fetus resulting from severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy. Lancet 1971; 29: 308-310.

1972

S. Berens, J. Wolff, D. Murphy show that the thyroid concentrates lithium.

1977

J Ginsberg and PG Walfish recognize the classical thyrotoxic phase preceding the hypothyroid phase of postpartum thyroiditis.

1979

T.H. Liao and J. Pierce obtain first ultrapure TSH preparation and then demonstrate that TSH shares a common alpha subunit with LH and FSH.

1998

Recombinant human TSH approved for clinical use in the United States

2002

Thomas Scanlan discovers 3-iodo-thyronine (T1 amine).

(updated November 16, 2014)

Pitt-Rivers biography (PDF File, 2.77 MB)

Annual Meeting History of the American Thyroid Association (PDF File, 250 KB)

History of the International Thyroid Congress (PDF File, 159 KB)

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