Seale Harris

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Seale Harris
Born (1870-03-13)March 13, 1870
Cedartown, Georgia, U.S.
Died March 17, 1957(1957-03-17) (aged 87)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Nationality United States American
Fields Physician
Alma mater University of Virginia
Johns Hopkins University
Known for Discovery of Hyperinsulinism
Notable awards AMA Distinguished Service Award (1949)[1]

Seale Harris (March 13, 1870–March 17, 1957) was an American physician and researcher born in Cedartown, Georgia. He was nicknamed "the Benjamin Franklin of Medicine" by contemporaries for his leadership and writing on a wide range of medical and political topics. Dr. Harris' most celebrated accomplishments were his 1924 hypothesis of hyperinsulinism[2][3] as a cause of spontaneous hypoglycemia.[4]


Harris received a medical degree from the University of Virginia in 1894 and established a medical practice in Union Springs, Alabama. After the completion of postgraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Harris accepted the position of Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Medical College of Alabama in Mobile. During World War I, Harris was commissioned as a major in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army and served with distinction.[5]

Returning to private practice in Birmingham, Dr. Harris was instrumental in building the 50-bed Gorgas Hospital Hotel which later became Montclair Baptist Medical Center. A prolific author and contributor to medical literature, in 1949 Harris was awarded the American Medical Association's Distinguished Service Medal for his research in hyperinsulinism. He was instrumental in establishing a camp near Mobile for children with diabetes. In tribute to his life and work, it was later designated Camp Seale Harris.[5]

He opened the Seale Harris Clinic in Birmingham in 1922. The clinic and name are perpetuated by his successors. Shortly after the discovery of insulin in 1922, Harris visited Canada to study diabetes cases with the scientists who discovered the hormone. These studies led to research on the effects in nondiabetic patients of an excessive secretion of insulin and his recognition that hyperinsulinism could cause hypoglycemia, a deficiency of sugar in the blood. His research on hyperinsulinism and its control brought international recognition to Harris, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest scientific award of the American Medical Association.[4]

While serving in the Army during World War I, he edited the journal War Medicine, published in Paris. For 12 years he was the owner and editor of the Southern Medical Journal. His writings include more than 100 contributions to the medical literature and books in such diverse fields as clinical practice, biography and politics. Widely respected among doctors, Harris served at as president of the Southern Medical Association, Medical Association of the State of Alabama, and the American Medical Editors Association.[4]

Harris' syndrome[edit]

Harris' syndrome is a historical term for hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, such as that caused by insulin-producing tumors of the pancreas (insulinoma). The syndrome is characterized by the symptoms of low blood sugar: weakness, hunger, shakiness, increasing nervousness, mild mental confusion or even personality alterations with erratic behaviour, and the adrenergic responses of tachycardia, pallor, and sweating. The concept of the syndrome was postulated by Harris, in 1924, after he observed hypoglycemia produced during treatment of diabetic patients with the newly discovered insulin.[6]

Military career[edit]

With the advent of World War I, and with a commission of major in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army, Dr. Harris was assigned to the staff of general William Crawford Gorgas. While serving overseas he was decorated for meritorious service by general John J. Pershing.[5]

Alabama Hall of Fame[edit]

The Alabama Hall of Fame was established by Act of Alabama No. 646 (1951) to recognize "worthy citizens of the state who rendered outstanding service or who won fame on account of their achievements as to make them exceptional in the history of Alabama."[7] Harris was posthumously elected in 1965 to the Alabama Hall of Fame.[4]

Seale Harris Award[edit]

This award, named in honor of Seale Harris and established in 1958 at the Southern Medical Association meeting in New Orleans, is presented annually to a member of the Southern Medical Association in recognition of important research accomplishments in the broad field of metabolism, endocrinology, or nutrition, or for significant accomplishments contributing to a better understanding of the chemical changes occurring in disease.[8]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Banting's Miracle: the Story of the Discoverer of Insulin. Lippincott, 1946.
  • Woman's Surgeon: the Life Story of J. Marion Sims MacMillan, 1950.
  • The Nation's Greatest Need: A National Department of Health. American Journal of Public Health, 1920.
  • Nutrition, The Most Important Public Health Problem of Today. Southern Medical Journal, 1922.
  • Insulin and Diet In The Treatment of Diabetes. Lippincott, 1923.
  • Hyperinsulinism and Dysinsulinism. J.A.M.A., 1924.
  • The Sugar Fed Child. UAB Press, 1928.
  • Nomenclature of Disorders of Insulin Secretion. Annals of Internal Medicine, 1934.
  • The Diagnosis and Treatment of Hyperinsulism. Annals of Internal Medicine, 1936.

Source: Lite For Life[1]


  1. ^ a b "Building our Brand". Litefor Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  2. ^ "Restore Your Health Safely and Sensibly". Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  3. ^ Harris, Seale (1924). "Hyperinsulinism and disinsulinism" (PDF). Journal of the American Medical Association 83 (10): 729–33. doi:10.1001/jama.1924.02660100003002. ISSN 0098-7484.
    1. Hyperinsulinism is a condition, perhaps a disease entity, with definite symptoms; i.e. those described as being due to hypoglycemia.
    2. It seems probable that one of the causes of hyperinsulinism is the excessive ingestion of glucose-forming foods [...]
  4. ^ a b c d "Seale Harris". Alabama State Archives. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  5. ^ a b c "Seale Harris, M.D.". Alabama Health Care Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  6. ^ "Harris' syndrome". Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  7. ^ "Alabama Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
  8. ^ "SMA Special Service Award". Southern Medical Association. Archived from the original on 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 

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