Autoimmune Diseases
Volume 1 Issue 1 - 2016
Addison’s disease: Historical Notes on the Eponym
Wilson IB Onuigbo*
Department of Pathology, Nigeria
Received: September 24, 2016| Published: September 30, 2016
*Corresponding author: Wilson I. B. Onuigbo, Department of Pathology, Medical Foundation & Clinic, 8 Nsukka Lane, Enugu 400001, Nigeria, Email:
Citation: Onuigbo WIB (2016) Addison’s disease: Historical Notes on the Eponym. MOJ Auto Dis 1(1): 00001. DOI: 10.15406/mojad.2016.01.00001


Eponyms have long been known in Medicine as the names of practitioners which were given to illnesses. Addison’s disease happens to be a favorite one. Therefore, its historical dimensions are worthy of notes.

Keywords: Eponym disease; Lesion; Adrenal gland; Addison; History

Historical Texts

The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary [1] prides itself not only in explaining a word but also on assigning its year of first usage. Concerning eponym, this means “one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named” whereas the year was 1840. Turning to Addison from whom Addison’s disease flowered, this means not only “a destructive disease marked by deficient adrenocortical secretion and characterized by extreme weakness, loss of weight, low blood pressure, gastrointestinal disturbances and brownish pigmentation of the skin and mucous membrane but also “about 1856”as the originating year.

Year of its origin turns out to vary in the literature. Thus, when I set out to publish on the falseness of such a year [2], I exemplified with among many others the 1909 MD Thesis of Durham University. In it, Kemp [3] proposed that Addison deserved it and it was the very title in that Thesis!

Likewise, in the 1959 monograph of Simpson et al. [4], they wrote that cancer deposits in the adrenal glands were “considered to be a rare cause of Addison’s disease, an eponym which in their view was worthily suggested by Hunter in 1909.” It is noteworthy, however, that not long after Addison’s initial publication, Greenhow [5] used that name in 1866. Thereafter, it was used in diverse journals in 1868 [6], and in 1893 [7] as well as in books by such popular authors as Osler [8] in 1885 and Byrom [9] in 1899.

Gough [10] drew attention to the historical aspects of eponyms in the field of Endocrinology. He included Addison’s disease. As he put it, the syndrome was described by him in an address to the South London Medical Society in 1849, and was published in his treatise on Diseases of the Suprarenal Capsule in 1855 [11].

Another historical view of him was pictured by Judith W [12] thus: “Richard Bright, Thomas Hodgkin, and Thomas Addison, giants of 19th century medicine, were contemporaries at Guy’s Hospital.” In fact, she was answering positively the question posed in 2007 of whether Eponyms are here to stay in medicine! Incidentally, the negative answer came from Alexander & Matteson [13].


Eponyms are practically in daily use in Medicine. However, changes tend to occur. For instance, it has been noticed that English language itself may become the problem. Thus, it has been argued that the name itself should stand and not its possessive form. Therefore, as Indian authors advocated [14], “Addison’s crisis” should not become “Addisonian crisis”! In this context, strictness should be stressed because, in their view, “Improved awareness of appropriate medical nomenclature is the joint responsibility of the authors, editors, reviewers, and publishers.”


  1. Merriam-Webster (2012) Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edn), USA, pp. 14-421.
  2. Onuigbo WI (1971) False firsts in cancer literature. Oncology 25(2): 163-167.
  3. Kemp FW (1907) Addison’s disease. MD Thesis, Durham University, UK.
  4. Simpson SL, Mason AL, Swyer GIM (1959) Major endocrine disorders, (3rd edn), London: Oxford University Press, UK, p. 148.
  5. Greenhow EH (1866) Report on diseases of the suprarenal capsules. Trans Pathol Soc Lond 17: 310-394.
  6. Bristoe JS (1868) Malignant disease of supra-renal capsules, brain, liver and kidneys. Trans Pathol Soc Lond 19: 415-416.
  7. Thompson WG (1893) A study of Addison’s disease and of the adrenals. J Am Med Sci 106: 377-396.
  8. Osler W (1885) A system of practical medicine. In: Pepper (Ed),. London: Low, Marston, Searle and Livington, UK, 3: 950.
  9. Bramwell B (1899) Anaemia and some of the diseases of the blood forming organs and ductless glands. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, UK, pp. 250.
  10. Gough IR (1986) A brief history of eponyms in endocrinology. Aust N Z J Surg 56(1): 61-65.
  11. Addison T (1855) On the constitutional and local effects of disease of the suprarenal capsules, London: Highley, UK, p. 8-39.
  12. Whitworth JA (2007) Should eponyms be abandoned? BMJ 335(7617): 425.
  13. Woywoat A, Matteson E (2007) Should eponyms be abandoned? BMJ 335(7617): 424.
  14. Jana N, Barik S, Arona N (2009) Current use of medical eponyms-a need for global uniformity in scientific publications. BMJ Med Res Methodol 9: 18.
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