History Of Diabetes

The term Diabetes is the shortened version of the full name DIABETES MELLITUS. Diabetes mellitus is derived from the Greek word diabetes meaning siphon (to pass through) and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet.

Diabetes seems to be a very old disease. The first reference to diabetes can be traced back to the Ebers Papyrus. It is an Egyptian compilation of medical texts dated about 1550 BC. It is one of the oldest known medical documents. In the western world, the term Diabetes was recorded in English for the first time in a medical text written around 1425. In 1675 that Thomas Willis added the word “’mellitus’” to the word diabetes. This was because of the sweet taste of the urine.

Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski in 1889 discovered the role of pancreas in diabetes. They found that dogs whose pancreas were removed, developed all the signs and symptoms of diabetes and died shortly afterwards.

In 1910, Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer found that diabetes resulted from lack of insulin. He termed the chemical regulating blood sugar as insulin from the Latin “insula”, meaning island, in reference to the insulin-producing islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. In 1921 Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best purified the hormone insulin from the pancreas of cows at the University of Toronto. This led to the availability of an effective treatment for diabetes in 1922.

In 1936 Sir Harold Percival (Harry) Himsworth published his work that differentiated type 1 and 2 diabetes as separate entities.

The first biosynthetic human insulin – Humulin – that is identical in chemical structure to human insulin and can be mass produced was approved in 1982 to market in several countries.

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