Hans Selye

Canadian stamp Hans Selye

Date of issue: January 17, 2000
Printer: Ashton-Potter Canada
Series: The Millennium Collection, Medical Innovators
Design: Stéphane Huot; based on a photograph from Fondation Hans Selye

Hans Selye

Hans Selye was born in Vienna in 1907. He graduated from the German University of Prague in 1929 with degrees in medicine and organic chemistry. In 1932, he moved to Montreal to work in McGill’s Department of Biochemistry, where he began research into the biochemical and physiological components of the body’s reaction to stress. This led to the development of his concept of the general adaptation syndrome. According to this, an animal experiencing a stressful situation undergoes three reactions: an initial alarm phase, a stage of resistance or adaptation, and finally a stage of exhaustion or, if the stress is severe enough, death.

Selye later joined the Université de Montréal as a professor and founded the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, where he held the position of Director until 1977. Over the course of his career, he published hundreds of scientific articles and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology 17 times! He died in Montréal in 1982.

The Stamp

The Stamp shows Selye in his laboratory. The subject of his research is written prominently next to him; one can perhaps make out “worry/stress” wrinkles on his forehead! A graph sub-headed A, B, and C just above Selye represents the three phases of the general adaptation syndrome. Part of the biochemical structure of cortisone, a man-made version of the “stress” hormone cortisol, is depicted at the top left.

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