Grant W. Liddle

Vanderbilt University

June 27, 1921 - June 29, 1989


Election Year: 1981
Scientific Discipline: Medical Physiology and Metabolism
Membership Type: Member

Grant W. Liddle was a pioneer in the field of clinical endocrinology.  He was one of the first scientists to discover a reproducible method for measuring aldosterone levels in urine, which showed that aldosterone secretion was dependent upon total body sodium concentration and extracellular fluid volume.  Another achievement was his discovery that certain malignant tumors (specifically those of the lungs) secreted a biologically active adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).  Liddle determined that Cushing’s disease (a syndrome causing obesity and muscular weakness) wasn’t primarily an adrenal disorder; instead it was caused by an excessive secretion of ACTH.  His research involving the pathways of cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP determined that glucagon, hypoglycemia, and insulin are regulators of their metabolisms.  His other major contribution was the development of three common tests of endocrine function: the dexamethasone suppression test, the metyrapone test for pituitary-adrenal reserve, and the use of spironolactone as a mineralcorticoid antagonist to help treat hypertension.

Liddle earned his B.S. degree from the University of Utah in 1943 and his M.D. from the University of California in 1948.  In 1953, he began his career as a surgeon for the Section on Clinical Endocrinology at the National Heart Institute and stayed there for three years.  He left in 1956 to become a professor of medicine and the chief of the Endocrine Service at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  In 1968, he was appointed as the chairman of the Department of Medicine for the college. He served as president of the following organizations: the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 1966, the Endocrine Society in 1973, the International Society for Endocrinology from 1976-1980, and the Association of Professors of Medicine from 1977-1978.  Liddle received the first Distinguished Leadership Award in Endocrinology from The Endocrine Society in 1971 and the John Phillips Memorial Award from the American College of Physicians in 1977.

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