Thalassemia comes from the Greek word "thalassemia" which means "anemia by-the-sea." The name thalassemia was coined at the University of Rochester in upstate New York by the Nobel Prize-winning pathologist George Whipple and the professor of pediatrics William Bradford from the Greek thalassa for sea and -emia meaning the blood.
Thalassemia was first described by Cooley and Lee in 1925. Most of their patients were of Mediterranean ancestry and a majority of them suffered anemia. Hence this group of anemias are also known as Cooley's Anemia or Mediterranean Anemia.
The thalassemias are a group of genetic blood disorders that affect a person's ability to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in our red blood cells that carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body.