Oskar Minkowski (January 13, 1858-July 18, 1931) and the discovery of the pancreatic origin of diabetes, 1889
submitted by Alan D. Rogol, MD, Ph.D
Serendipity may lead to discoveries of major significance. Minkowski with Joseph von Mering were discussing whether free fatty acids were essential for fat absorption. Minkowski proposed total pancreatectomy in a dog, which he did, to answer the question. Diabetes (excessive urination with increased glucose in plasma and urine) appeared almost immediately (Zbl Klin Med 1889; 10:393; Arch Exp Pathol Pharmakol 1889; 27:371). The simple conclusion was that the pancreas contained a “substance” that controlled the concentration of circulating glucose. Banting used this result and the foresight of Barron (Surg Gynec Obsted 1920; 31:437) to design an experiment that preserved the islets of Langerhans in dogs while the acinar portion of the pancreas withered and led to the isolation of insulin in 1921.