Hans Selye

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Selye, Hans

 

Born Jan. 26, 1907, in Vienna. Canadian pathologist.

Selye was educated in the faculty of medicine of the German University in Prague and at the universities of Paris and Rome. In 1931 he worked at The Johns Hopkins University and later at McGill University in Canada. In 1945 he became the director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal.

While working with various toxic or insufficiently purified hormonal preparations, Selye discovered in 1936 that these preparations and other powerful irritants such as supercooling, infection, trauma, and hemorrhage produced similar changes in the adrenal glands, thymicolymphatic system, and gastrointestinal tract of rats. On the basis of these observations he advanced a theory of nonspecific reaction formulated in his concept of stress. According to Selye, stress is a state evoked by any strong stimuli and accompanied by a general mobilization of the body’s defense system. In developing this view, Selye introduced the concepts of a general adaptation syndrome, of adaptive hormones (hormones of the anterior lobe of the pituitary and of the adrenal cortex), and of diseases of adaptation (quantitative or qualitative deviations in the adaptation syndrome). He also introduced the concepts of adaptation energy as a measure of the resistance of organisms, and of local stress—selective affections caused by harmful agents to target organs, or organs with altered reactivity. Selye developed an experimental model of necrosis of the myocardium caused by disruptions of the balance of electrolytes and steroid hormones in the body; he advanced a method of preventing this condition by chemical means.

Selye’s works have dealt mainly with medical and biological problems, but they also touch on philosophy, sociology, and the psychology of scientific work. In a number of cases he has unjustifiably transferred some of his specialized concepts to a sociological plane.

Selye has been awarded honorary degrees by many universities. He is a member of international and national professional medical associations. The University of Brno (Czechoslovakia) has established a medal in Selye’s name which is awarded for contributions to general pathology and endocrinology.

WORKS

“A Syndrome Produced by Diverse Nocuous Agents.” Nature, 1936, vol. 138, p. 32.
The Stress of Life. New York [1956].
Experimental Cardiovascular Diseases, vols. 1–2. Berlin-New York, 1970.
Hormones and Resistance, vols. 1–2. Berlin-New York, 1971.
In Russian translation:
Ocherki ob adaptatsionnom sindrome. Moscow, 1960.
Profilaktika nekrozov serdtsa khimicheskimi sredstvami. Moscow, 1961.
“Sorok let nauchno-issledovatel’skoi raboty v meditsine.” Patologicheskaia fiziologiia i eksperimental’naia terapiia, 1969, no. 3.
“Nekotorye aspekty ucheniia o stresse.” Priroda, 1970, no. 1.
Na urovne tselogo organizma. Moscow, 1972.

V. I. KANDROR