The short history of gastroenterology

J Physiol Pharmacol. 2003 Dec:54 Suppl 3:9-21.


In this paper research on the stomach and bowel physiology is presented in a historical perspective. The author tries to show how digestive processes were interpreted by the ancients and how they tried to adjust them to the dominating humoral theory of disease. It is pointed out that the breakthrough which created a new way of understanding of the function of the digestive system was made by Andreas Vesalius and his modern model of anatomy. The meaning of acceptance of chemical processes in digestion by iatrochemics representatives in XVII century is shown. Physiological research in XIX century, which decided about a rapid development of physiology, especially the physiology of the gastrointestinal tract, is discussed. Experiments were performed by all main representatives of this discipline: Claude Bernard, Jan Ewangelista Purkyne, Rudolph Heidenhain and especially Ivan Pavlov, who, thanks to the discoveries in the secretion physiology, explained basic functions of the central nervous system. The XX century was dominated by the research showing the important role of the endocrine system and biological agents in the regulation of secretion and motility of the digestive system. The following discoveries are discussed: Ernest Sterling (secretin), John Edkins (gastrin) and André Latarjet and Lester Dragstedt (acetylcholine). It is underlined that Polish scientists play an important role in the development of the gastroenterological science--among others, Walery Jaworski, who made a historical suggestion about the role of the spiral bacteria in etiopathogenesis of the peptic ulcer, Leon Popielski, who stated the stimulating influence of histamine on the stomach acid secretion, Julian Walawski, who discovered enterogastrons--hormones decreasing secretion. As a supplement, there is the list of achievements in the field of the physiology and pathology of the gastrointestinal tract awarded with Nobel Prize and the list of most important Polish papers in this field.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastroenterology / history*
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans