The discovery of the glandula parathyroidea.

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The glandula parathyroidea (parathyroid gland) is one of two small paired endocrine glands, superior and inferior, usually found embedded in the connective tissue capsule of the posterior surface of the thyroid gland. They secrete parathyroid hormone which regulates the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. Inadvertent removal of all parathyroid glands, as during thyroidectomy, produces tetany and may be fatal in the absence of hormone replacement therapy[1].


The English anatomist and paleontologist Richard Owen discovered[2] the glandula parathyroidea in 1850 while studying the anatomy of the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicorni). In his 1850 publication he remarks on his findings, “The thyroid gland consisted of two elongate, subtriangular lobes extending from the sides of the larynx to the fourth tracheal ring; diminishing as they descend and united by a very thin and narrow strip continued between their inferior extremities, obliquely across the front of the trachea. The structure of this body is more distinctly lobular than is usually seen; a small compact yellow glandular body was attached to the thyroid at the point where the veins emerge.” The “small compact yellow glandular body” that he observed was indeed the glandula parathyroidea (parathyroid gland). Here is a photograph[3] of Richard Owen’s original Indian rhinoceros specimen preparation with the black arrow pointing to the left parathyroid gland:

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Here[4] the parathyroid gland (human) can be seen on the posterior surface of the thyroid gland:

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Here is a photograph[5] of Richard Owen:

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  1. parathyroidea
  2. /mode/1up, page 48.
  3. 4325-8
  5. owen.html