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Edward Kendall, scientist who identified cortisone

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Born on 8 March 1886 in the US state of Connecticut, Edward Kendall graduated from Columbia Univrsity with a PhD in Chemistry in 1910. In 1914 he went to work at the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, where he stayed until his retirement in 1951. His official biography on the Nobel website reports:


"Kendall's name will always be associated with his isolation of thyroxine, the active principle of the thyroid gland, but he is also known for his crystallization of glutathione, the chemical nature of which he established, and also for his work on the oxidation systems in animals.
Perhaps his greatest achievement, however, was his work on the hormones of the cortex of the adrenal glands. Chemical investigation of the adrenal cortex was carried out simultaneously but independently by Kendall and
with their associates. The former at the Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota; the latter at Zurich, Switzerland.


After many years the hormones of the adrenal cortex were isolated, identified, and prepared by synthetic methods in small amounts. Subsequently, they were made commercially on a scale sufficiently large to permit a study of their physiological effects. Previous to this, Dr. Philip Hench, also at the Mayo Foundation, had observed that patients who had rheumatoid arthritis were sometimes relieved if they developed jaundice. In women, rheumatoid arthritis was sometimes relieved during pregnancy. When one of the hormones of the adrenal cortex was given to patients by Dr. Hench, the anti-inflammatory effect of the compound, cortisone, was discovered.


It was then found that many other diseases of an inflammatory nature were relieved by cortisone. Although it was found later that cortisone, like insulin, acts only so long as it is given to the patient, and that it does not cure the disease, the discovery of the activity of cortisone was a great step forward. It has led to our modern knowledge of the hormones of the adrenal cortex and their uses in medicine.


For their work, Kendall, Hench, and Reichstein jointly were given the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for 1950. Since his retirement to Princeton University, Kendall has continued his studies of the chemistry of the adrenal cortex."


Edward Kendall died on 4 May, 1972, aged 86. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on 10 December 1950.

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