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Who Discovered Sickle Cell Anemia?

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Sickle cell anemia is a relatively new discovery for a type of blood disorder. There have been no records of sickle cell anemia until the 20th century. The first clinical findings on sickle cell anemia was recorded by James Bryan Herrick in 1910. He was an American physician and a major figure in the history of medical science. He was born on August 11th, 1861 in Illinois.

James Bryan HerrickJames Bryan Herrick and his intern, Ernest Edward Irons, discovered sickle cell anemia.

How he discovered the disease?

He practiced in various hospitals in the Chicago area. He also taught in some of those hospitals. Herrick had an intern name Ernest Edward Irons. In December 1904, a patient named Walter Clement Noel was admitted to the Chicago Presbyterian Hospital. Apparently, he was suffering from anemia. Ernest Irons was looking at Noel’s blood when he noticed the irregularity in the shape of the blood cells. He called them “peculiar, elongated and sickle-shaped” blood cells.

In the beginning, it was called Herrick’s syndrome

That was the first time the connection between the irregularity of in the shape of blood cells with sickle cell anemia was discovered and identified. In 1922, Verne Mason named the diseases as “sickle-cell anemia” based on the description of Ernest Irons. Herrick published the findings with illustration and with the help of other available resources. The disease was also called as Herrick’s syndrome for some time because of his contributions.

Linus Carl Pauling

In 1949, an American chemist, Linus Carl Pauling and some of his colleagues researched on sickle cell anemia. They were the first to show that the cause of the disease was an abnormality in the hemoglobin molecule. They published their findings in the paper titled “Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease”.