Thrombocytopenia historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: 


Our search to find the history of discovery of low platelet counts was inconclusive. Instead, we have discussed the discovery of platelets in this section.

Historical Perspective

  • George Gulliver in 1841 drew pictures of platelets[1] using the twin lens (compound) microscope invented in 1830 by Joseph Jackson Lister. [2] This microscope improved resolution sufficiently to make it possible to see platelets for the first time.
  • William Addison in 1842 drew pictures of a platelet-fibrin clot.[3]
  • Lionel Beale in 1864 was the first to publish a drawing showing platelets.[4]
  • Max Schultze in 1865 described what he called "spherules", which he noted were much smaller than red blood cells, occasionally clumped, and were sometimes found in collections of fibrin material.[5]
  • William Osler observed them and, in published lectures in 1886, called them a third corpuscle and a blood plaque and described them as a colorless protoplasmic disc.[6]
  • James Wright examined blood smears using the stain named for him, and used the term plates in his 1906 publication but changed to platelets in his 1910 publication which has become the universally accepted term.[7][8]

The term thrombocyte (clot cell) came into use in the early 1900s and is sometimes used as a synonym for platelet; but not generally in the scientific literature, except as a root word for other terms related to platelets (e.g. thrombocytopenia meaning low platelets).[9]


  1. Lancet, 1882, ii. 916; Notes of Gulliver's Researches in Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, and Botany, 1880; Carpenter's Physiology, ed. Power, 9th ed., see Index under 'Gulliver.'
  2. Godlee, Sir Rickman (1917). Lord Lister. London: Macmillan & Co.
  3. Robb-Smith AH (1967). "Why the platelets were discovered". Br J Haematol. 13 (4): 618–37. PMID 6029960.
  4. Beale LS (1864). "On the Germinal Matter of the Blood, with Remarks upon the Formation of Fibrin". Transactions of the Microscopical Society & Journal. 12: 47–63. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2818.1864.tb01625.x
  5. Schultze M (1865). "Ein heizbarer Objecttisch und seine Verwendung bei Untersuchungen des Blutes". Arch Mikrosk Anat. 1 (1): 1–42. doi:10.1007/BF02961404
  6. Osler W (1886). "On certain problems in the physiology of the blood corpuscles". The Medical News. 48: 421–25.
  7. Wright JH (1906). "The Origin and Nature of the Blood Plates". The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. 154 (23): 643–45. doi:10.1056/NEJM190606071542301
  8. Wright JH (1910). "The histogenesis of blood platelets". Journal of Morphology. 21 (2): 263–78. doi:10.1002/jmor.1050210204
  9. Jain NC (1975). "A scanning electron microscopic study of platelets of certain animal species". Thromb Diath Haemorrh. 33 (3): 501–7. PMID 1154309.

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