Founding Physicians of Celiac - Samuel Gee
Samuel Jones Gee, M.D., F.R.C.P - The First Modern Description of Celiac Disease.
Early Life and Work
Samuel Gee was born in London, England in 1839. Unfortunately, he seems to have survived all his siblings, and while there is no indication that this early trauma spurred him into medicine, he did his most influential work in paediatrics.
He was made a full physician and teacher in about 1875 at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, "the first hospital providing in-patient beds specifically for children" (Wikipedia, Greater Ormond Street). He worked there as both a teacher and doctor, and published several important papers. Dr. Gee knew his classics and several languages well. His writing is full of references to Ancient Greek and Latin physicians. For example An Address Delivered at the Opening of the Section of Diseases of Children is crammed with literary and historical references. His skill with Ancient languages would have allowed him to read Aretaeus' work on Celiac Disease in its original form.
On Celiac Disease
Most importantly to us, he lectured on his findings in 1887 published a paper called "On the Celiac Affection" in 1888. He describes the common Gastrointestinal distress symptoms that some Celiac Disease patients experience, though he believe that it was more common in very young children and adults returning from India (who were most likely suffering from Tropical Sprue, a different malabsortion diease that looks like celiac disease).
Dr. Gee noticed several inconsitencies in Celiac Disease that puzzled him, why was it that Celiac Disease patients had differing symptoms, why did it affect only some children in a family, what caused patients to lose weight so rapidly? It would take several years and many advancements in technology for physicians to answer these questions. Dr. Gee had no tools to observe the GI tract lining in living patients (colonoscopies were invented in 1972) or in post-mortem (the GI tract lining would have deterioted too quickly to be examined).
"If the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet" - (Gee, 20)
Despite this, he was the first to correctly identify that something in the diet of patients was causing Celiac Disease. He also realised that some Celiac Disease sufferers couldn't digest dairy, though he believed milk curd was the main aggrevating food. He noticed that a young boy greatly improved after consuming a only 'quart of the best Dutch mussels daily' for a season (though the same patient relapsed when he refused to eat any more mussels). He reccomends a very limited diet, eliminating rice, fruit and vegatables and substituting foods that unfortunately, included thinly sliced toast and bread crusts. It is remarkable that Dr. Gee was able to arrive at the conclusions he did without the tools like blood tests, exploratory surgery, or knowledge of the roles that genetics and the immune system play in Celiac Disease.
Later Life and Death
He ran his own successful, private practice and became appointed physician to the Prince of Wales, George V, in 1901. Dr. Gee died of a sudden heart attack in 1911 at the age of 72. According to his wishes, he was cremated with his ashes were spread near his wife and eldest daughter.
- Gee, Samuel, Dr. "On the Coeliac Affection." St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Reports XXIV.B (1888): 17-20. Print.
- Dowd, Brian, and John Walker-Smith. "Samuel Gee, Aretaeus, and The Celiac Affection." British Medical Journal 2 (1974): 45-47. Print.
- "Dr Samuel Gee." Dr Samuel Gee. UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, n.d. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.
- "Samuel Gee." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.ee." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.