Thomas Addison

Thomas Addison (April 1793  29 June 1860) was an English physician and scientist. He is traditionally regarded as one of the “great men” of Guy’s Hospital in London.

English physician and scientist
Not to be confused with Thomas Edison or Tom Addison.
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Thomas Addison
Born April 1793

Died 29 June 1860 (1860-06-30) (aged 67)

Brighton, Sussex, England
Resting place Lanercost Priory
Occupation Physician
Known for Addison’s Disease, Pernicious anemia

Among other pathologies, he discovered Addison’s disease (a degenerative disease of the adrenal glands) and Addisonian anemia (pernicious anemia), a hematological disorder later found to be caused by failure to absorb vitamin B12.

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Thomas Addison was born in April 1793, but his exact birthdate is not known. He was born in Longbenton, near Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of Sarah and Joseph Addison, a grocer and flour dealer in Long Benton. He attended the local Thomas Rutter school and then went to the Royal Free Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne. He learned Latin so well that he made notes in Latin and spoke it fluently.

Addison’s father wanted him to become a lawyer, but he entered the University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1812 as a medical student. He became a member of the Royal Medical Society, which still runs today. In 1815, he received the degree of doctor of medicine. His thesis was on Dissertatio medica inauguralis quaedam de syphilide et hydrargyro complectens (Concerning Syphilis and Mercury).

Addison moved from Edinburgh to London the same year and became a house surgeon (a surgical resident) at the Lock Hospital. Addison was also a pupil of Thomas Bateman at the public dispensary. He began a practice in medicine while he was a physician at an open ward reception on Carey Street.

Thanks to his teachers, Addison became fascinated by diseases of the skin (dermatology). This fascination, which lasted the rest of his life, led him to be the first to describe the changes in skin pigmentation typical of what is now called Addison’s disease.

Thomas Addison

Addison’s memorable career as a physician and is usually dated to 1817 when he enrolled as a physician pupil at Guy’s Hospital. Guy’s Medical School recorded his entrance as follows: “Dec. 13, 1817, from Edinburgh, T. Addison, M.D., paid pounds 22-1s to be a perpetual Physician’s pupil.” Addison obtained his licentiateship in the Royal College of Physicians in 1819 and some years later was elected a fellow of the Royal College.

Addison was promoted to assistant physician on 14 January 1824 and in 1827 he was appointed lecturer of materia medica. In 1835, Addison was joint lecturer with Richard Bright on practical medicine, and in 1837, he became a full physician at Guy’s Hospital. When Bright retired from the lectureship in 1840, Addison became sole lecturer. He held this position until about 1854–55. At that time, of lectures, they searched throughout the city for the most attractive teachers. Addison was a brilliant lecturer. He attracted a large number of medical students to his lectures.

Thomas Addison was a superb diagnostician, but rather a shy and taciturn man and had a small practice, at a time when physicians of his position usually had large practices. He was one of the most respected physicians at the Guy’s Hospital, where he exerted a great deal of influence, devoting himself almost wholly to his students and patients. He was described as the type of doctor who is always trying to discover the change in a piece of machinery rather than one who, like his contemporary Benjamin Guy Babington, regarded his patients as suffering, sensitive human beings.[citation needed]

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