If the period from 1850-1900 can be regarded as the Mediaeval era of diabetes, the time from 1900-1950 may be regarded as its Renaissance, and pointed the way to better things. The first half of the 20th century was dominated by the discovery of insulin, which marked a step on the road from the use of crude tissue extracts to modern protein chemistry. Juvenile diabetes was no longer a lethal condition, but the children who survived on this treatment now showed signs of retinal, kidney and heart disease, and the battle against complications was set to be the challenge of the second half of the century. Biochemistry now came into its own, en route to becoming molecular biology, but the epidemiology of diabetes had yet to be invented, genetics was in its infancy, and DNA was still a mystery.
History 1900 to 1950
1900 Schulze and Ssobelow independently block the pancreatic duct with paraffin, demonstrating atrophy of the exocrine pancreas but no diabetes (until the pancreatic remnant is removed).
1902 An extract containing secretin, the first gut hormone, identified by Bayliss and Starling. Introduction of the term “hormone”
1907 Lane and Bensley identify A and B cells in the pancreatic islets
1909 Meyer proposes the name “insuline” for the as yet unknown pancreatic hormone. Edward Sharpey-Schafer (1850-1935) proposes the same name (apparently independently) in 1916, and introduces the term pro-insuline.
1913 Frederick Allen publishes his experiments on subtotal pancreatectomy and introduces his "starvation regime".
1921 The discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting, Charles Best, Collip and John Macleod; Nobel prize awarded to Banting and MacLeod in 1923.
1923 Kimble and Murlin identify a crude pancreatic extract that raises blood glucose, and name it "glucagon" (the glucose agonist)
1926 John Jacob Abel manages to crystallize insulin
1932 La Barre observes that administration of an extract from the upper intestine can lower blood glucose and proposes the name "incretine" for the new hormone.
1936 Sir Harold Himsworth MD, FRS (1905-1993) publishes the best-known of a series of articles distinguishing between insulin-sensitive and insensitive types of diabetes, thus prefiguring the type1/type 2 divide and introducing the concept of insulin resistance.
1937 Hans Krebs publishes his first paper on the citric acid cycle
1938 Hans Christian Hagedorn introduces Neutral Protamine Hagedorn (NPH) insulin, achieved by mixing insulin with fish sperm.
1942 Marcel Janbon realizes that humans treated with a sulphonamide derivative are developing hypoglycaemia. August Laboutieres tries the novel sulfonylurea agent in animals and concludes that the agent promotes insulin secretion from the pancreas. See History of SU derivatives.
1943 Discovery of alloxan diabetes by Dunne
1947 Nobel prize shared by Bernardo Houssay (role of the anterior pituitary in diabetes) and Carl & Gerti Cori for their work on glycogen synthesis and breakdown.