Nicolae C. Paulescu (1869-1931)

Nicolae C. Paulescu

1869 Nicolae Constantin Paulescu was born on the 8th of November in Bucharest, on Calea Mosilor, number 69.  He was a Romanian physiologist, professor of medicine, and politician, the discoverer of pancreine (later called insulin). His father, Costache Paulescu, was a merchant and his mother was called Maria Paulescu (born Dancovici). Nicolae C. Paulescu attended elementary school at Primary School for Boys Number 1, Yellow Colour.

1880 He registered to “Mihai Bravul” Secondary School (“Mihai Viteazul” High School).

1888 He graduated high school. Since this time he proved great abilities for natural sciences, for Physics and Chemistry, but also for foreign, classical and modern languages. He started to study medicine to Paris.

1897 He got the title of Doctor in Medicine with the thesis: “Researches upon the Structure of Spleen”.

1891-1894 He worked for hospitals in Paris, firstly like an outsider for “Hotel-Die” hospital in Paris under Professor Etienne Lancereaux, an illustrious clinician and pathologist.

1894-1897 He worked as an internalist.

1897-1898 He attended biological chemistry and general physiology courses within Science Faculty in Paris.

1897-1900 He worked as a secondary doctor for Notre Dame du Perpetuel-Secours Hospital being the adjoint of Professor Lancereaux and as an editorial secretary for Journal de Medecine Interne Magazine.

1899 He got PhD in Sciences with the works: “Experimental Researches upon the Modifies of Respiratory and Cardiac Movements under the Influence of Different Body Positions” and “Determinant Causes and the Mechanism of Rapid Death after the Transition from Horizontal to Vertical Position”.

1900 He returned in the country and was appointed Physiology teacher for Medicine Faculty and Director of Department of Internal Medicine of “St. Vincent of Paul” Hospital in Bucharest.

1901 He got the second PhD in sciences at University in Paris with the dissertation: “Comparative Study upon the Action of Alkaline Chloride over Living Matter”.

1902 He started his Physiology course with the lecture: “Spontaneous Generation and Darwinism in front of Experimental Method”.

1905 He had three famous lessons (“Finality in Biology”, “Materialism”, “Heart and God”) that would create the volume “Notions in Physiology”, published in the same year and reedited in 1944 and 1999. His conceptions against Darwinism would lead to a strong debate with Nicolae Leon and Dimitrie Voinov in the pages of “Literary Conversations” and “The Hospital”.

Nicolae Paulescu did a remarkable scientific research activity regarding Physiology, especially related to carbohydrate metabolism, mellitus diabetes pathogenesis, pancreas role in nutritional assimilation, blood coagulation and sudden death mechanism.

1906 He created a genuine method to exscind pituitary to dogs in a trans-temporal way, which then would be applied in pituitary surgery for human being.

1921 During Biology Society’s session on the 23rd of July, Nicolae Paulescu presented in four communications the results of his researches regarded to the action of pancreatic extract in case of diabetes, communications that are published in Society’s magazine. Paulescu published the discovery of anti-diabetic active principle in pancreas that he named pancreine and in the number of “Archives Internationales de Physiologie” specialised magazine, 31st of August 1921, magazine that appeared in the same time in France and Belgium.

1922 Paulescu got, from Ministry of Industry and Trade in Romania, the patent no. 6255, called “Pancreine and Its Manufacturing Process”.

These publications preceded by 8-10 months the announcement of insulin discovery (a new naming offered to active principle of pancreas) by Fr. Grant Banting and Ch. Herbert Best from Toronto (Canada). Basing on an incorrect translation of the published articles, Banting and Best denied the results that teacher Paulescu had reached. So, the paternity of the discovery being totally given to Canadian researchers and Paulescu’s contribution being silenced, the Committee of Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine awarding rewarded in 1923 only Banting and Best. Insulin discovery is still assigned only to Canadian researchers.

1931 On 19th of July, in Bucharest, Nicolae Constantin Paulescu died.

1969 Answering to international campaign for truth restoring started by Scottish physiologist Ian Murray, Nobel Committee recognized Nicolae Paulescu’s merits and priority in discovering the treatment for diabetes. Professor A.W.K. Tiselius, director of Nobel Institute, deplored the situation in 1923 but – according to Committee’s statutes – he excluded the possibility of an official restoring, expressing only his hope that “the pioneering work” of Paulescu would be properly eulogized by international scientific forums. To the semicentenary of insulin discovery, these forums recognized unanimously the priority of Romanian scholar.

1976 In the book: “The Prority of N.C. Paulescu in the Discovery of Insulin”, Professor Ioan Pavel presented indisputable documents that prove Paulescu’ merits.

1990 Nicolae Paulescu was appointed post mortem member of Romanian Acdemy. 

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