Thomas Addison

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Thomas Addison (born April 1793 in Longbenton / North Tyneside near Newcastle upon Tyne in Northumberland ( England ); † June 29, 1860 in Brighton / East Sussex ) was an English doctor . In 1855 he was the first to describe the underactive adrenal gland and its symptoms, which is now named after him as Addison's disease .

Thomas Addison


Thomas Addison was the son of Sarah and Joseph Addison, a grocer and florist in Long Benton, Northumberland. In school he learned to speak fluent Latin and wrote records in that language. His father wanted him to be a lawyer, but Thomas Addison enrolled at Edinburgh University as a medical student in 1812 and graduated in 1815 at the age of 22. The title of his doctorate was Dissertatio medica inauguralis quaedam de syphilide et hydrargyro complectens - On syphilis and mercury .

In 1815 Addison moved to London , where he was a surgeon at Lock Hospital and a student of Thomas Bateman (1778-1821) in a public ambulance. He began to work in his own practice and at the same time in a public hospital. His superiors sparked Addison's lifelong interest in skin diseases . The skin changes in the adrenal hypofunction probably drew his attention to this clinical picture.

Addison's special career as a doctor and scientist began when he became a student at Guy's Hospital in London in 1817 . In 1819 he received a license to teach at the Royal College of Physicians , in which he was elected as a Fellow in 1838 . In 1824 Addison was promoted to assistant doctor and in 1827 to lecturer . Addison's income from his lectures during this period is estimated at £ 700 to £ 800 a year.

In 1835 Addison became co-professor of practical medicine with Richard Bright . In 1837 he became chief physician at Guy's Hospital . When Bright retired in 1840, Addison succeeded him as professor and held that position until 1854 or 1855.

Addison was considered a brilliant teacher and diagnostician, but a shy and quiet contemporary - a circumstance which contributed to the fact that, unlike other doctors in this position, he only ran a small practice of his own. Addison was respected and influential at Guy's Hospital . He lectured dogmatically and decisively. He is described as a doctor who was looking for the cog stuck in the “patient machine” rather than seeing the sentient and suffering being in the patient.

In 1847, at the age of 52, Addison married Elizabeth Catherine Hauxwell, who had two children from his first marriage. Addison's marriage itself was childless.

In 1860 Addison retired after suffering from depression. On June 29, 1860, he threw himself into the ditch in front of his house, sustaining a fatal head injury.


Addison was the first to describe Addison's disease, later named after him, in 1855 with the corresponding symptoms (including an increasing brown coloration from the areas of skin exposed to light).

He published numerous other descriptions of diseases, including in 1839 appendicitis and in 1849 pernicious anemia (also called Addison's anemia ). Addison also did studies on poisons.

More deonyms


  • De Syphilide et Hydrargyro . Doctoral thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1815. On syphilis and mercury
  • An Essay on the Operation of Poisonous Agents upon the Living Body. With John Morgan (1797–1847). London, Longman Rees, 1829. The first book in English on the effects of toxins in the human body ( online ).
  • Observations on the Disorders of Females Connected with Uterine Irritation. London 1830.
  • Observations on Fatty Degeneration of the Liver.
  • Elements of the Practice of Medicine. With Richard Bright (1789-1858). 3 volumes, London, 1836–1839.
  • On the influence of electricity, as a remedy in certain convulsive and spasmodic diseases. Guy's Hospital Reports, London, 1837, 2: 493-507. The first therapeutic use of static electricity.
  • Observations on the Anatomy of the Lungs. 1840. In: Collected Writings, London 1868.
  • Observations on Pneumonia and its Consequences. In: Guy's Hospital Reports, 2nd Series, 1843, 1: 365-402.
  • On the Pathology of Phthisis. Guy's Hospital Reports, London 1845, 3: 1-38.
  • Chronic Suprarenal Insufficiency, Usually due to Tuberculosis of Suprarenal Capsule. First description of Addison's disease. In: London Medical Gazette, ns 1849, 43: 517-518.
  • On a Certain Affection of the Skin, Vitilgoidea - a. plana, b. tuberosa. With remarks. With William Gull. Guy's Hospital Reports, London, 2nd Series, 1851, 7: 265-276.
  • On the Constitutional and Local Effects of Disease of the Supra-renal Capsules. London 1855.
  • On the keloid of Alibert, and on true keloid. Medico-Surgical Transactions, London, 1854, 37: 27-47. Addison describes two forms of keloids , the one described by Alibert and the "real keloid", the Addison keloid.


  • A Collection of the Published Writings of Thomas Addison. Edited by Dr. Wilks and Dr. Daldy. London, the New Sydenham Society, 1868.
  • FM Sutherland: Nova et Vetera. Thomas Addison 1793-1860. British Medical Journal , 1960, 5194: 304-305.

Web links


  1. Hanns Kaiser , Hans-Kuno Kley: Cortisontherapie: Corticoide in Klinik und Praxis , p. 2 ( online )
  2. ^ The diseases of the adrenal glands and their consequences (1855). First published in German translation in 1912 (Barth. Leipzig, digitized online )
  3. ^ Otto Westphal , Theodor Wieland , Heinrich Huebschmann: life regulator. Of hormones, vitamins, ferments and other active ingredients. Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1941 (= Frankfurter Bücher. Research and Life. Volume 1), in particular pp. 9–35 ( History of hormone research ), here: pp. 14 f.