My watch list  

Hans Selye

Hans Selye
BornJanuary 26, 1907
DiedOctober 16, 1982
Other namesSelye János (Hungarian)

Hans Hugo Bruno Selye CC was a Canadian endocrinologist of Austro-Hungarian origin and Hungarian ethnicity. Selye did much important theoretical work on the non-specific response of the organism to stress. While he did not recognize all of the many aspects of glucocorticoids, Selye was aware of their role in this response. Some commentators considered him the first to demonstrate the existence of a separate stress disease, the stress syndrome, or general adaptation syndrome (GAS).

His initial inspiration for GAS came from an endocrinological experiment in which he injected mice with extracts of various organs. He at first believed he had discovered a new hormone but was proved wrong when every irritating substance he injected produced the same symptoms (swelling of the adrenal cortex, atrophy of the thymus, gastric and duodenal ulcers). This, paired with his observation that people with different diseases exhibit similar symptoms, led to his description of the effects of "noxious agents" as he at first called it. He later coined the term "stress", which has been accepted into the lexicon of various other languages.

Selye has acknowledged the influence of Claude Bernard (who developed the idea of 'milieu intérieur') and Walter Cannon's 'homeostasis'. Selye conceptualized the physiology of stress as having two components: a set of responses he called the general adaptation syndrome, and the development of a pathological state from ongoing, unrelieved stress.

Selye discovered and documented that stress differs from other physical responses in that stress is stressful whether the one receives good or bad news, whether the impulse is positive or negative. He called negative stress distress and positive stress eustress. The system whereby the body copes with stress, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system, was also first described by Selye. He also pointed to an alarm state, a resistance state, and an exhaustion state, largely referring to glandular states. Later he developed the idea of two 'reservoirs' of stress resistance or alternatively stress energy.

He wrote The Stress of Life (1956), From dream to discovery; on being a scientist (1964) and Stress without Distress (1974). He worked as a professor and director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the Université de Montréal.

In 1968 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.


  • "A Syndrome Produced by Diverse Nocuous Agents" - 1936 article by Hans Selye from The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
  • The Stress of life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956.
  • From dream to discovery; on being a scientist. New York: McGraw-Hill 1964
  • Hormones and resistance. Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag, 1971.
  • Stress without distress. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., c1974.

Other media

  • Stress, directed by Ian MacNeill (1956), National Film Board of Canada [1]

See also

  • Alvin Toffler
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hans_Selye". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE