Dr. Barnes was one of the great 20th century thyroid experts. He earned earn a PhD in thyroid physiology from the University of Chicago, where he then taught at the medical school. He later studied to become a physician. He then joined the faculty of the University of Illinois and then became Health Commissioner for the state of Colorado. Early in his career, Barnes noted that many of his patients were suffering symptoms similar to experimental animals that had had their thyroid glands removed. He also noted that many of these patients improved when they were given thyroid hormone. He quickly realized that many of his observations had been previously described by Eugene Hertoghe, MD and dubbed himself the “Johnny-come-lately” of thyroid studies.
But Barnes made many contributions of his own. One contribution was the development of standardized temperature testing as a means of diagnosing and monitoring hypothyroidism. Hiws approach was based on the observation going back to Eugene hertoghe that hypothyroid patients consistently had low body temperatures. His technique was based on studies of thousands of military recruits and college students, as well as decades of patient care. The Basal Body Temperature technique was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1942. In my experience, Barnes’ method is superior to many of the newer testing methods.
Many of Barnes’ contributions are described in his book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness . This book describes the many faces of low thyroid. Barnes includes discussions of the link between hypothyroidism and high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, as well as cancer. He also describes the limitations of all of the testing techniques that have been developed over the years. He also points out the health and weight loss benefits of high fat, low carbohydrate diets–long befreo the “Atkins Revolution”. Barnes was also about 30 years ahead of his time in addressing the dangers of pre-diabetes. He believed that the dangers of this condition could be effectively limited with careful treatment of any underlying thyroid dysfunction.