History of Thalassemia

Thalassemia is a Greek word which means “anemia by the sea” or the “blood disease of the sea.” Thalassa (θάλασσα) means sea and Haima (αίμα) means blood in Greek. British English convention spells Thalassemia as thalassaemia.

Thalassemia can sometimes be referred to as Cooley’s anemia or Mediterranean anemia. However, these alternative names all refer to the same genetic blood disorders. Dr. Thomas Cooley, an American pediatrician in Detroit, first defined the disorder in 1925 [1]. The Nobel Prize-winning pathologist George Whipple labeled it Mediterranean anemia because it was very common in that region, but the name was misleading since the disorder exists in many other parts of the world as well. The disorder was later renamed thalassemia. Patients often refer to thalassemia as thal.