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#onthisday in 1893. Eliott Joslin examines Mary Higgins

August 2, 2017

On this day in 1893, Eliott Joslin, a Boston physician, examined Mary Higgins, a young girl suffering from diabetes. Mary Higgins’ case was the first entry that Joslin made in a ledger that he kept for the rest of his career studying and treating diabetes.

 Joslin was the first doctor to keep a diabetes registry. This registry allowed him to effectively track and treat the disease.

Joslin was an advocate of patient education and strongly believed that training patients to monitor their diabetes would save lives. He wrote the first textbook about diabetes in 1916, and in it, he noted a 20 percent decrease in mortality when patients instituted a program of diet and exercise. The below chart shows a dramatic drop in diabetes deaths in Massachusetts from 1920 to 1925.

“Diabetic Manual for the Mutual Use of Doctor and Patient,” Joslin, Eliott, Dorchester High School Collection (Collection 0420.047), Box 5, Boston City Archives

In 1929, Joslin’published the Diabetic Manual for the Mutual Use of Doctor and Patient. You can see the title page below.  

Page from “Diabetic Manual for the Mutual Use of Doctor and Patient,” Joslin, Eliott, Dorchester High School Collection (Collection 0420.047), Box 5, Boston City Archives

Joslin dedicated the manual to “Those Individuals Who Have Conquered Diabetes by Living Longer With It Than They were Expected to Live Without It.“

Page from “Diabetic Manual for the Mutual Use of Doctor and Patient,” Joslin, Eliott, Dorchester High School Collection (Collection 0420.047), Box 5, Boston City Archives

Joslin’s Manual emphasized the ability of patients with diabetes to live full, normal lives. Below is  a page from the manual that shows a girl doing a handstand after taking her insulin

Thee above pages are from Joslin’s “Diabetic Manual for the Mutual Use of Doctor and Patient,” published in 1929. He dedicated the manual to “Those Individuals Who Have Conquered Diabetes by Living Longer With It Than They were Expected to Live Without It

Joslin's Manual was used widely throughout the United States. At the City Archives, we have a copy of the manual because teachers used it in classes at Dorchester High School. Joslin's legacy and work live on. In 1952, his private clinic formally became the Joslin Diabetes Center. It currently supports the world’s largest diabetes research team.