History of the Thyroid

Kara J. Connelly, Julie J. Park, Stephen H. Lafranchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The history of the thyroid dates from 2697 BCE when the "Yellow Emperor"Hung Ti described the use of seaweed to treat goiter. The English name "thyroid"was coined by Thomas Wharton in 1656 from the Greek word for a shield. Bernard Courtois discovered iodine in 1811 when he noted a residual purplish ash while burning seaweed. Robert Graves is known for his classic 1835 report of "palpitations, goiter, and exophthalmos"in three women, but Caleb Parry observed the same clinical features in 1786. The clinical syndrome we now recognize as hypothyroidism was characterized as "myxoedema"in 1878 by William Ord at St. Thomas Hospital. In 1891, George Murray reported that injection of thyroid extract from sheep led to improvement in symptoms in a woman with myxedema. Thomas Kocher, who reported that patients with goiter who underwent complete thyroidectomy developed cachexia strumipriva, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1909. Edward Kendall discovered "thyroxin"on Christmas day in 1914. Studies by David Marine that iodine treatment prevented endemic goiter led to salt iodination, which has largely eradicated endemic cretinism. In 1973, Jean Dussault reported detection of congenital hypothyroidism by screening newborn populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-556
Number of pages11
JournalHormone Research in Paediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • Cretinism
  • Goiter
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Iodine
  • Myxedema
  • Thyroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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