The history of urologic pathology: an overview

Robert H. Young, John N. Eble

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article begins with the testis and a legendary figure, Sir Astley Cooper, who wrote an early text on the organ. The early 20th century saw the first major development, the description of the seminoma by the French investigator Maurice Chevassu, but the pace of knowledge did not accelerate until after World War II with a major article from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) by Nathan B. Friedman and Robert A. Moore, soon followed by the first series testis fascicle by Frank J. Dixon and Moore. Other noteworthy contributions were made by two masters of gonadal pathology, Gunnar Teilum and Robert E. Scully. In the 1970s, Niels E. Skakkebaek played a seminal role in elaborating in-situ neoplasia of the testis. The school of British testicular tumour authored, in the mid-1970s, under the editorship of Roger C. B. Pugh, one of the best texts on testicular pathology. Advances in more recent years have been largely spearheaded by Thomas M. Ulbright of the Indiana University School of Medicine. Observations on the prostate gland date back to Andreas Vesalius and William Cheselden, the latter appearing to have introduced the word for the gland. Note is made of contributions on the anatomy and histology of the gland by Oswald Lowsley, L. M. Franks, and John McNeal. Diagnosing carcinoma of the prostate was brought into the modern age in a landmark 1953 article by Robert S. Totten et al. In the 1960s, Donald F. Gleason introduced a grading system that is now in use worldwide. The topic of premalignant lesions has been well established only for approximately three decades, based initially on the work of Dr McNeal and David G. Bostwick. One of the first to write a book on the bladder was the remarkable British surgeon-pathologist Sir Henry Thompson. Workers at the AFIP, including Colonel James E. Ash and Fatallah K. Mostofi, wrote many outstanding articles on bladder pathology. The roles of other institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University, the Mayo Clinic, and St Peter's Hospital Institute of Urology, London, and those who worked there are noted. Knowledge of the pathology of the urachus dates largely back to the remarkable book on the topic in 1916 by the Hopkins investigator Thomas S. Cullen. Information on renal tumours dates largely to the work of Paul Grawitz, but awareness of the many variants of renal cell carcinoma in general was slow to evolve, and has only accelerated in recent years. The AFIP group of Dr Mostofi, ably assisted by Colonel Charles J. Davis and Isabell A. Sesterhenn, has contributed to knowledge of renal neoplasia with articles of note on oncocytoma, metanephric adenoma, and medullary carcinoma. In the mid-1980s, the German workers Wolfgang Thoenes and Stephan Störkel recognised the distinctive tumour known as chromophobe renal cell carcinoma. Work on renal tumours in the young owes much to J. Bruce Beckwith. The observational talents of numerous investigators have, in just over a century, advanced our knowledge of diseases of the urinary tract and testis remarkably.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-212
Number of pages29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • history
  • kidney
  • prostate
  • testis
  • urinary bladder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology

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