Hans Selye was born in Vienna in 1907. As early as his second year of medical school (1926), he began developing his now-famous theory of the influence of stress on people's ability to cope with and adapt to the pressures of injury and disease. He discovered that patients with a variety of ailments manifested many similar symptoms, which he ultimately attributed to their bodies' efforts to respond to the stresses of being ill. He called this collection of symptoms--this separate stress disease--stress syndrome, or the general adaptation syndrome (GAS).
He spent a lifetime in continuing research on GAS and wrote some 30 books and more than 1,500 articles on stress and related problems, including Stress without Distress (1974) and The Stress of Life (1956). So impressive have his findings and theories been that some authorities refer to him as "the Einstein of medicine."
A physician and endocrinologist with many honorary degrees for his pioneering contributions to science, Selye also served as a professor and director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal. More than anyone else, Selye has demonstrated the role of emotional responses in causing or combating much of the wear and tear experienced by human beings throughout their lives. He died in 1982 in Montreal, where he had spent 50 years studying the causes and consequences of stress.