Elizabeth Hughes Gossett

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Elizabeth Hughes Gossett (August 19, 1907 - April 21, 1981) the daughter of U.S. politician Charles Evans Hughes, was one of the first patients treated with insulin. She received over 42,000 insulin shots before she died in 1981.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Elizabeth Hughes was born August 19, 1907 in the New York State Executive Mansion in Albany, New York, to Antoinette Carter and Charles Evans Hughes, who was Governor of New York at the time of her birth.

Elizabeth developed diabetes in 1919 at age 11. She was treated initially by Dr. Frederick M. Allen at his special clinic, the Physiatric Institute in Morristown, New Jersey. Dr. Allen put Elizabeth on a strict diet and continued to monitor her condition over the next three years while she lived at home with a private nurse. The diet was typically as low as 400 calories per day, and was restricted to a point below which sugar was detected in the urine. It caused a gradual weight loss from 75 pounds to a mere 45 pounds from 1919 to 1922 when insulin became available.

By the winter of 1921/22 her health was deteriorating seriously; she was 14 years old and weighed 52 pounds.[2] In 1922 her mother contacted Canadian doctor Frederick Banting in Toronto. Elizabeth came to Toronto with her mother in August 1922 and began receiving insulin from Dr. Banting.[3]

Elizabeth's health improved with insulin treatment. She returned to school in 1923 and graduated from Barnard College in 1929.

Marriage and children[edit]

In 1930 she married William T. Gossett, a lawyer who later served as the president of the American Bar Association (1968-9) as well as vice president and general counsel of the Ford Motor Company.[4] They lived in Bloomfield, Michigan and had two daughters and a son.[5]


Elizabeth Gossett was active in civic affairs in the Detroit area. She was a member of the board of trustees of Barnard College, one of the founding trustees of Oakland University, Rochester, a member of the Detroit Urban League, as well as a volunteer at the Merrill-Palmer Institute and at Michigan State University. She was best known as the founder of the Supreme Court Historical Society in 1972 and served as its president until 1979.


Elizabeth Gossett died on April 21, 1981 at the age of seventy-three.[4] Few of her friends or associates knew of her diabetic condition, as she systematically destroyed most of the material documenting her treatments and had expunged all references to diabetes from her father's papers.[6] At the time of her death, she had received 42,000 insulin injections over 58 years.[7][1]


The Hughes Gossett Awards, presented by the Supreme Court Historical Society, are named in her honor.[8] She was portrayed in the Canadian miniseries on the discovery of insulin, Glory Enough for All.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Abigail Zuger (October 4, 2010). "Rediscovering the First Miracle Drug". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-06. But not Elizabeth Hughes: she ran in the other direction, far from the headlines that briefly made her the most famous diabetic child in the United States. Although she received an estimated 42,000 insulin shots before she died in 1981 at the age of 74, she systematically destroyed most of the material documenting her illness, expunged all references to diabetes from her father’s papers, and occasionally even denied she had been ill as a child. 
  2. ^ Clinical diabetes mellitus: a problem-oriented approach
  3. ^ Resurrections in Toronto: The Emergence of Insulin
  4. ^ a b "Elizabeth H. Gossett, a Trustee Of Barnard College, Is Dead at 73". New York Times. April 27, 1981. Retrieved 2010-10-06. Elizabeth Hughes Gossett, a trustee of Barnard College and founder of the Supreme Court Historical Society, died Saturday at Harper-Grace Hospital in Detroit. Mrs. Gossett, who lived in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., was 73 years old. Mrs. Gossett was the wife of William T. Gossett, a lawyer and former vice president and general counsel of the Ford Motor Company. Her father was Charles Evans Hughes, a former Chief Justice of the United States, and she was born in the Executive Mansion in Albany when he was Governor of New York. She was a graduate of Barnard College and was named a trustee in 1957. She also served as a director of the Barnard Alumnae Association and contributed to a history of the college. 
  5. ^ Family of Gossett
  6. ^ Hughes (Elizabeth) Papers
  7. ^ Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg (2010). Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-64870-7. 
  8. ^ Brozan, Nadine (June 7, 1995). "CHRONICLE". The New York Times. 

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