Orlo Clark delivered the Historical Lecture entitled “Remarkables: endocrine abnormalities in art” at the recent IAES meeting in Montreal during International Surgical Week and is shortly to publish his book of the same title. It is well known that artists often truly depict anatomical realities associated with disease, including those depicting endocrine disorders. In his lecture Orlo Clark examined the aesthetic, social, cultural, spiritual and historical context in which these depictions take place.
Jerome Conn’s belief that adrenal adenomas are a common surgically correctable cause of “essential hypertension” may yet be proven correct. In 1954, two years after the discovery of aldosterone, Jerome Conn from Ann Arbor, Michigan, described the syndrome of primary aldosteronism. The first patient was a woman of 34 years who had intermittent tetany, paraesthesia, periodic muscular weakness and paralysis, polyuria, polydispsia, and mild hypertension, but no oedema.
Michael Bliss, historian from the University of Toronto, delivered an address at the recent AAES meeting in New York describing the interaction between Harvey Cushing, a surgeon, and the Endocrine Society which had just elected him one of its first presidents. Cushing was scathing about the budding specialty of endocrinology,
Our understanding of thyroid physiology is largely based upon the outcomes of experimental thyroid surgery in animals. Schiff (1859) first described the striking results of ablation of the thyroid in experimental animals but it was not until 1884 that the matter was put on a firm basis by the same observer. He then also showed that by means of homotransplants of the thyroid, the consequences of thyroidectomy could be avoided, and foreshadowed the possibility of emulsions of the gland having a similar effect.
Routine laryngoscopy is part of the pre-operative assessment for patients undergoing thyroid or parathyroid surgery and is, as such, an integral component of endocrine surgical practice. Indirect laryngoscopy however was actually invented by an opera singer. The laryngoscope was invented by the Spanish singer Manuel Garcia in order to allow him to inspect his own vocal cords during singing practice. He recalled “I have often thought of using a mirror to observe the larynx from within while singing but had always considered it impossible.