It is well recognized by the historian of medicine, that the discovery of the effect of adrenal medullary hormones on the peripheral and central control of circulation occurred independently by Szymonowicz and Cybulski at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, and by Georg Oliver and Edward A. Schäffer, University College London, England.
Napoleon Cybulski was born to a Polish gentry family in 1885 at Krzywonosy, close to Vilnius. He studied (1875-1880) medicine at Military Surgical-Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1885 Cybulski was appointed the Chair of Physiology at Jagiellonian University, Cracow. In 1893 he encouraged his younger colleague Dr. W. Szymonowicz to verify the already published studies on adrenal gland and to conduct new experiments on the effects of the extracts from adrenal tissue on physiological parameters in normal animals, and in animals post adrenalectomy. Extracts from the adrenal medulla had stronger effects, than those from the adrenal cortex, on blood pressure, heart rate and respiration of the dogs. Cybulski and Szymonowicz call the extract “nadnerczyna”, which can be translated as supranephrine/epinephrine. They noted: “Blood of the suprarenal vein contained the active principle of the gland in sufficient amount to mimic effect of adrenal extract.” These studies were published in March 1895 in Centralblatt fur Physiologie volume 9, page 173-175 and Gazeta Lekarska 1895: 15, page 300-308.
The studies of Oliver and Schäffer, published in Journal of Physiology 1895: 17; 230-276 came to similar conclusions. There were some discrepancies between the observed effects of adrenal medullary extracts between Polish and British physiologist, especially regarding direct action of the substance on the vascular tone and the effects modulated through the central nervous system.
In subsequent years, Napoleon Cybulski pioneered world research on the electrical activity of the brain cortex and heart, and on electrical currents in the muscle. He published the first Polish handbook of physiology with interesting observations on kidney function. He was great advocate of woman’s education and admission to medical schools. Napoleon Cybulski died of stroke on April 24, 1919 in Cracow.
Keywords: History, adrenal glands, nadnerczyna, epinephrine