Acute lymphoblastic leukemia historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Carlos A Lopez, M.D. [2], Kamal Akbar, M.D.[3]


Leukemia was first described in 1827 by Alfred-Armand-Louis-Marie Velpeau, a French physician.

Historical perspective

  • Velpeau saw that the blood of this patient had a texture that was "like gruel", and thought that the blood appeared white due to the white corpuscles.[2]
  • In 1845, a number of patients who passed away with enlarged spleens and changes in the "colors and consistencies of their blood" was publicized by the Edinburgh-based pathologist J.H. Bennett; he used the term "leucocythemia" to outline this pathological condition.[1][3]
  • As a visionary in the use of the light microscope in pathology, Virchow was the first to talk about the abnormal overabundance of white blood cells in patients with the clinical syndrome reported by Velpeau and Bennett[1]
  • As Virchow was not certain of the cause of the white blood cell excess, he used the exclusively depictive term "leukemia" (Greek: "white blood") to refer to the condition.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Piller, Gordon J. (2001). "Leukaemia - a brief historical review from ancient times to 1950". British Journal of Haematology. 112 (2): 282–292. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2141.2001.02411.x. ISSN 0007-1048.
  2. Hoffman, Ronald; et al. (2005). Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice (4th. ed. ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone. pp. p. 1071. ISBN 0-443-06629-9.
  3. Bennett JH. Two cases of hypertrophy of the spleen and liver, where death took place from suppuration of blood. Edinburgh Med Surg J. (1845)64:413.
  4. Virchow R: Die Leukämie. In Virchow R (ed): Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur Wissenschaftlichen Medizin. Frankfurt, Meidinger, 1856, p 190.
  5. Ebstein W. Ueber die acute Leukämie und Pseudoleukämie. Deutsch Arch Klin Med. (1889)44:343.
  6. Mosler F. Klinische Symptome und Therapie der medullären Leukämie. Berl Klin Wochenschr. (1876)13:702.
  7. Naegeli O. Über rothes Knochenmark und Myeloblasten. Deutsch Med Wochenschr. (1900) 26:287.
  8. Zhen-yi, Wang (2003). "Ham-Wasserman Lecture: Treatment of Acute Leukemia by Inducing Differentiation and Apoptosis". Hematology. PMID 14633774.

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