English physician Thomas Addison published in London On the Constitutional and Local Effects of Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules (1855). This beautiful monograph in small folio format with 11 hand-colored lithographs inaugurated the study of diseases of the ductless glands and the disturbances in chemical equilibrium known as pluriglandular syndromes. Addison chanced upon adrenal disease while searching for the causes of pernicious anemia. His initial paper on the subject. entitled "On Anemia: Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules" (1849), attempted to link the two diseases. Addison's 1855 monograph focused on diseases of the suprarenal capsules and contained the classic description of the endocrine disturbance known as "Addison's disease" (also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency, hypocortisolism, and hypocorticism). Addison was also the first to suggest that the adrenal glands are essential for life, and his monograph inspired a burst of experimental research that led, among other things, to Edmé Félix Alfred Vulpian's discovery of adrenalin one year later, in 1856.
Addison, a brilliant researcher and diagnostician, is traditionally regarded as one of the "great men" of Guy's Hospital, where he worked and taught for over forty years. Shy and taciturn, Addison suffered from several bouts of severe depression during his lifetime, and eventually committed suicide in 1860. It would seem that Addison's mental instability precluded him from giving any copies of his book to his friends, as we know of no other presentation copies of this work except one from his widow, which we handled in 2010. That copy was in a very special original cloth binding in which the normal lettering within the gilt cartouche on the upper cover ("On Disease of the Supra Renal Capsules by Thomas Addison, M.D.") was replaced by the words "Presented by Mrs. Addison." The work was inscribed to Dr. Henry Lonsdale, who was physician to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle; he was also the author of The Worthies of Cumberland (1873), which contained a 12-page memoir of Addison.
Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 8. Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine, 60c.
(This entry was last revised on 03-14-2015.)