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Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer

Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer (June 2 1850, Hornsey, Middlesex – March 29 1935, North Berwick, East Lothian) was an English physiologist who coined the word "insulin" after theorising that a single substance from the pancreas was responsible for diabetes mellitus. He also coined the term "endocrine" for the secretions of the ductless glands, after demonstrating the existence of adrenaline (together with George Oliver) in 1894.

Schafer's Method of artificial respiration is named for him.

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Born Schäfer, he was the third son of city merchant J.W.H. Schäfer, who was Hamburg born but came to Britain as a young man and became a naturalised citizen. He was brought up a Protestant. He attended University College London in 1868 where he was taught by William Sharpey. He became the first Sharpey Scholar in 1871. Qualifying in medicine in 1874, he was immediately appointed Assistant Professor of Practical Physiology, and was elected to the Royal Society when he was only 28 years old.

His career continued at UCL, where he was in turn appointed Fullerian Professor, then Jodrell Professor. But in 1899 he took the Chair of Physiology at the University of Edinburgh, where he remained until retiring in 1933.

He was married twice, to Maud Dixey and Maude Roberts (after Maud's death), and had four children (three girls and two boys) to Maud. However, he survived both his sons, both having died in action in World War I. He was president of the British Medical Association in 1912 and received his knighthood in 1913.[1]He introduced suprarenal extract into medicine.[2] He prefixed his teacher William Sharpey's surname to his own in 1918, in order to perpetuate the name and also to avoid the anti-German sentiment at the time.


Besides valuable papers on muscular structure, on the chemistry of blood proteids, on absorption, and on the rhythm of voluntary contraction, he wrote:

  • A Course of Practical Histology (1877)
  • Essentials of Histology (1885; sixth edition, 1902)
  • Advanced Text-Book of Physiology by British Physiologists (1898)
  • Experimental Physiology (1910)

He edited Quain's Elements of Anatomy (with G. D. Thane, 8th, 9th, and 10th editions).


  • Schaefer's method — (artificial respiration) - Patient prone with forehead on one of his arms: straddle across patient with knees on either side of his hips, and press with both hands firmly upon the back over the lower ribs; then raise your body slowly, at the same time relaxing the pressure with your hands. Repeat this forward and backward movement about every five seconds.
Dorland's Medical Dictionary (1938)


  • Sykes, Alan H.: "Sharpey's Men" in Sharpey's fibres : the life of William Sharpey, the father of modern physiology in England, page 132-135. York : William Sessions, 2001.
  • Fullerian Professorships
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Edward_Albert_Sharpey-Schafer". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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