Wednesday, November 6, 2019

First scientific description of a vitamin D-deficiency by Francis Glisson (1597–1677)

Rickets, a disease of vitamin D deficiency, al-though rare, is still diagnosed in the United States. The discovery of vitamin D began with the recognition of rickets as childhood bone disease by Francis Glisson in 1650.

Born in 1597, Francis was the second son of William Glisson of Rampisham of Dorset. Admitted to Caius College, Cambridge in1617, he took a degree in Arts in 1620, was incorporated MA at Oxford in 1627, and turning to the study of physics, graduated MD from Cambridge in 1634

In 1650, Glisson published in Latin a treatise on rickets titled “DeRachitide.”7,8Glisson’s work remains a classic among medical texts. Glisson’s sound and elegant observation of rickets is based on clinical and postmortem experience.

Glisson’s treatise addresses the clinical features of rickets in a scientific tone, but lapses into medieval mysticism while discussing the etiology of rickets. Glisson ascribed the etiology of rickets to “cold distemper, that is moist and consisting of penury or paucity of and stupefaction of sprits.”

He was the first to appreciate that infantile scurvy was a separate entity, although it might coexist with rickets, whereas the profession generally considered them to be one disease until Barlow’s paper was published 200 years later. Glisson recognized, too, that rickets were neither congenital nor inherited, were not contagious, nor caused by syphilis.

The association between rickets and a lack of sunlight exposure was reported by Sniadecki in 1822.
First scientific description of a vitamin D-deficiency by Francis Glisson (1597–1677)

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