Thyroid Research and Practice

: 2012  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 31-

The Nobel thyroid

Sanjay Kalra1, Kanishka Sawhney2,  
1 Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and B.R.I.D.E, Karnal, Haryana, India
2 Student, Subharti Medical College, Meerut, India

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Kalra
Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and B.R.I.D.E, Karnal, Haryana

How to cite this article:
Kalra S, Sawhney K. The Nobel thyroid.Thyroid Res Pract 2012;9:31-31

How to cite this URL:
Kalra S, Sawhney K. The Nobel thyroid. Thyroid Res Pract [serial online] 2012 [cited 2023 Feb 1 ];9:31-31
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Full Text


Thyroidology is a young and dynamic branch, which has contributed to the growth and expansion of endocrinology. Unraveling of the biochemistry and physiology of the thyroid gland has led to the enhanced understanding of hormone synthesis and action. The history of thyroidology has been reviewed in detail recently. [1] An effort has also been made to list laureates of the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology, who won the prize because of their contribution to endocrinology. [2] The presentation of thyroidology in the Nobel Prize list of honors, however, has not been highlighted sufficiently.

 The First Prize

Surprisingly, the Nobel Prize has never been won by a medical endocrinologist or thyroidologist. Emil Theoder Kocher was a surgeon whose work covered fields of work ranging from epilepsy and trepanation, to abdominal surgery, to fractures and skeletal malformations. His greatest achievement, however, was the Nobel Prize in 1909, which he won for work on the physiology, pathology, and surgery of the thyroid gland. His clean bloodless surgical technique reduced the high complication and mortality rate prevalent in his time. He developed the Kocher incision, identified ''cachexia strumipriva'' (hypothyroidism developing after total thyroidectomy), and worked upon thyroid transplantation and thyroid extract injection. [3]

This was the first Nobel prize won by any work related to classic endocrinology. Earlier, however, Niels Ryberg Finsen had won the prize for his work related to heliotherapy of cutaneous tuberculosis. [4] This would later be linked to vitamin D.

 Future Award

Roger Guilleman, working with sheep tissue, and Andrew V. Schally, using porcine tissue, isolated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)-releasing factor (RF) or TRF in 1969. This discovery not only built the foundation of hypothalamic endocrinology, but also expanded our knowledge of thyroid medicine. For this, they were jointly awarded half of the Nobel Prize in 1977. [4] The other half went to another formidable researcher, Rosalyn Yalow, who discovered radioimmunoassay. This helped in improving the diagnosis of thyroid disease, and then optimize therapeutic regimes. Dr. Yalow passed away recently, and her contribution to endocrinology has been discussed in detail. [5]

 The Chemistry Prize

The acknowledgement of advances in thyroid related science has not been limited to the Medicine or Physiology Nobel Prize. In 1943, the Chemistry prize was awarded to George de Hevesy, who pioneered the use of radioactive tracers, which are indispensable for endocrine diagnosis today. [4]


This brief review is an attempt to highlight the specific contributions in thyroidology, which have been deemed worthy of the Nobel Prize. Many other Nobel Laureates have won prize for general work related to hormone synthesis and action. This work too has positively impacted the growth of thyroid medicine.


1Niazi AK, Kalra S, Irfan A, Islam A. Thyroidology over the ages. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2011;15 Suppl 2:S121-6.
2Kalra S. Endocrinology and the Nobel prize. Int J Clin Cases Invest 2011;2:1:3.
3Welbouren RB. The history of endocrine surgery. New York: Praegel; 1990.
4All Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine. Available from: [Last accessed on 2012 Jan 31].
5Unnikrishnan AG, Kalra S, Baruah M. The other insulin story of 1921. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2011;15:147-8.