History of Chinese Invention - Early Endocrinology
Endocrinology is a branch of medicine dealing with glands in the body that produce hormones. In the second century BCE, the Chinese were isolating sex and pituitary hormones from human urine and using them for medicinal purposes. They used methods such as sublimation of steroid hormones and the use of saponin (from the beans of Gleditschia sinensis) to extract hormones, but gypsum (containing calcium sulfate) was also known to have been used.
Endocrine glands and basic understanding of hormonal effects on bodily functions were understood by early Greek anatomists, but experimentation and therapy was not common until the advent of germ theory, physiology, and organ basis of pathology in the 19th century. English physicians in the early 20th century extracted "secretin" from the pancreas and coined the term hormone for chemicals influence the function of various organs.References
Return to History of Chinese Invention and Discovery
The Genius of China
3,000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention
written by Robert K.G. Temple and published by Simon and Schuster, 1986
Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West:
Lectures and Addresses on the History of Science and Technology
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Includes an essay on the social background of Chinese medicine:
"Proto-endocrinology in Medieval China" (pp. 294-315)