Remembering Sir Frederick Banting and Insulin: July 27: Snapshots in History

July 28, 2016 | John P.

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On July 27 and beyond, take a moment to remember Sir Frederick Grant Banting (Born: November 14, 1891 at Alliston, Ontario; Died: February 21, 1941 at Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland from wounds and exposure to the elements following a airplane crash.) whose is best known for his life-saving and life-changing work on the discovery of insulin that improved lives for millions of diabetics all over the world. On July 27, 1921, Banting initially isolated insulin from a dog’s pancreas, working in conjunction with colleagues J.J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, and James Bertram Collip. Beginning on January 11, 1922, insulin (initially called isletin) was administered to 14-year old Leonard Thompson (who had Type 1 diabetes) at Toronto General Hospital. Thompson initially had an allergic reaction to Banting and Best’s extract; however, on January 23, 1922, Thompson reacted more positively to an extract developed by J.B. Collip. For this discovery, Dr. Banting was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 with Dr. John James Rickard Macleod. Macleod had provided Banting with access to laboratory facilities at the University of Toronto in 1921 along with the assistance of a medical student, Dr. Charles Herbert Best. Banting was angered at the Nobel Committee for ignoring Best’s contribution in the discovery of insulin so Banting gallantly shared his half of the Nobel Prize money with Best. In response, Macleod shared his half of the Nobel Prize money with Collip. (Best succeeded Dr. Macleod as professor of physiology at the University of Toronto in 1929.) In addition to being the youngest Nobel laureate in medicine/physiology, Banting also received the Reeve Prize in 1922 from the University of Toronto, was awarded an annual life annuity of $7,500 by the Canadian government in 1923, and was knighted by King George V in 1934 as well as becoming a Vice-President of the Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK). Banting also became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1935.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

Breakthrough Banting Best and the race to save millions of diabetics  

Journey back to 1919 where a frail 11-year old Elizabeth Hughes has been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes with the only accepted form of treatment being starvation. Due to the work of Banting and Best, marred somewhat by scientific jealousy and business rivalry, Elizabeth Hughes becomes one of the first diabetics to receive insulin injections while the discoverers and the Eli Lilly and Company work to mass produce insulin in order to help diabetics all over the world.

Also available as an eBook.


Frederick Banting hero healer artist  

Consider this readable biography of Banting that included his exploits in the Canadian Army Medical Corps that led to his being awarded the Military Cross in 1919 for heroism on account of treating wounded soldiers for 16 hours, while being wounded himself. Continue the story of Banting’s life by reading about his work with Charles Best and others on isolating insulin to treat diabetics around the world.

Also available as an eBook.


The discovery of insulin 3rd pbk ed 

Consider this multi-awarding winning book (including the City of Toronto Book Award) by University of Toronto Professor Emeritus of History Michael Bliss about the discovery of insulin by the Canadian research team of Banting, Best, Macleod, and James Bertram Collip. 

Click here for the 1982 edition of this title.


Banting a biography  

Read this acclaimed biography by Professor Michael Bliss of Frederick Banting’s ascent to celebrity status following the discovery of insulin and his subsequent frustrations in scientific discovery, a failed marriage to a socialite that ended in scandal, his attempt to seek solace through his work and painting, and his untimely death in a plane crash. 

Click here for the 1984 edition of this title.

Did you know that November 14th (Banting’s birthday) is also World Diabetes Day as proclaimed by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization? For more information on diabetes and resources available in Toronto Public Library collections, please visit Toronto Public Library’s Health and Wellness Blog and view the blog post Diabetes by Numbers….

See also:

Remembering Banting, Best, and “Pancreatic Extracts”: March 22: Snapshots in History