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Phillip Hench: co-discoverer of cortisone

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Phillip Hench was born in Pittsburgh USA on 20 February 1896, the same year as his Polish/Swiss co-discoverer Tadeus Reichstein. After an arts degree he joined the US army in 1917. The army put him through a medical degree, which led him to the Mayo Foundation in Minnesota, where he specialised in arthritic diseases. His official biography on the Nobel website reports:

 

"In the course of his work he observed the favourable effects of jaundice on arthritic patients, causing a remission of pain. Other bodily changes, for example pregnancy, produced the same effect. These and other observations led him gradually to the conclusion that the pain-alleviating substance was a steroid.
In the period 1930-1938, Dr.E. C. Kendall had isolated several steroids from the adrenal gland cortex. After several years of collaboration with Dr. Kendall, it was decided to try the effect of one of these substances, Compound E (later named cortisone), on arthritic patients. Delay in implementing this decision was caused by Dr. Hench's military service in World War II and by the costly and complicated isolation of the substance.  In 1948-1949, cortisone was successfully tested on arthritic patients. Hench also treated patients with ACTH, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland which stimulates the adrenal gland."

 

Philip S. Hench died on March 30, 1965, aged 69.

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