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Re: [IP] An unlikely hero--short history of Banting
For a more complete story of Frederick Banting, you may want to read "The
Discovery of Insulin" by Michael Bliss. Bliss maintains that Banting
actually did not know anyone with diabetes before he started his research.
A man named Collip (with whom Macleod shared his Nobel prize money) helped
refine methods of producing insulin, but it wasn't until Eli Lilly got
involved that large scale production of consistently potent insulin was made
available. It is a fascinating and very hopeful story.
----- Original Message -----
From: <email @ redacted>
To: <email @ redacted>
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 3:19 PM
Subject: [IP] An unlikely hero--short history of Banting
> An Unlikely Hero
> By Mary Turner
> Fred hated school. Having grown up on a farm near Alliston,
> Fred was a good worker but felt uncomfortable and unaccepted in a town
> school. Although he tried hard, he was not a good student. In order to
> graduate, he had to repeat some of his exams. An academic career just
> not seem to be in the cards for Fred but he had a persistent streak.
> After graduation, he began studies to become a minister. When that
> did not go well, he changed his goal to medicine, working strenuously to
> become an orthopedic surgeon. World War I arrived, and the great need
> field medics facilitated the early graduation of many doctors, including
> After the War, the young Canadian doctor returned home to set up his
> practice. To his dismay, business was slow to nonexistent. He waited a
> whole month before treating his first patient, and his payment was the
> grand sum of four dollars! Fred had so much time on his hands as he
> waited for patients to materialize that he whiled away the hours reading
> medical journals. He began to focus on articles on diabetes, a disease
> that had claimed the life of a neighbor's child. Realizing that
> research might solve the problem of this disease, Fred decided he needed
> laboratory. He approached Dr. J. J. R. Macleod at the University of
> Toronto. Dr. Macleod was initially uninterested - he
> figured Fred knew nothing about research and refused to waste laboratory
> facilities on him. But Fred stubbornly persisted and eventually
> Dr. Macleod to support him. In 1920, Fred happily entered a poorly
> equipped laboratory and was given a young assistant named Charles Best.
> In those days there was no support in the medical and scientific
> communities for an unknown surgeon's research.
> Fred and his assistant were given lab animals left over from other
> scientists' studies. But they dedicated themselves to working long hours
> without pay, and Fred even sold his car to finance the needed
> Dr. Macleod soon grew more interested in the team's work, and
> he eventually became involved in the research.
> Fred and Charles worked day and night, but early results in
> the hormone preparation they called insulin were discouraging. Many of
> animals they treated died, but finally, one animal survived for several
> weeks. The team appeared to be finally getting somewhere and it was time
> to move on to human subjects. Before treating human patients, however,
> Fred and Charles tested the safety of their insulin on each other. Their
> tests were a resounding success.
> The first patient to be treated with Fred and Charles's insulin
> formulation was a fourteen-year-old boy named Leonard. The year was
> For two years, Leonard had been on the "Allen diet" - a starvation diet
> diabetics that allowed only 450 calories a day. The poor boy weighed
> seventy-five pounds, and he was barely alive. But the new insulin
> treatment administered by Fred and Charles was a great success. Leonard
> gained weight, and his health dramatically improved. History shows that
> Leonard, the very first insulin patient, actually lived to adulthood.
> By now, interest in insulin was growing rapidly. Charles Best
> methods for quick, large-scale production, and by the end of 1922,
> diabetics from all over the world were coming to Toronto for treatment.
> had been only two short years from the first, rudimentary experiments
> animals to the successful widespread treatment of diabetics.
> In 1923, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded jointly to Canadian
> Doctors Frederick Banting and J. J. R. Macleod. In keeping with his
> character, Fred gave half of his $20,000 prize money to his assistant and
> friend, Charles Best. Fred put his share of the money right back into
> research, establishing the Banting Research Foundation and the Banting
> Institute at the University of Toronto.
> Fred could have made himself a millionaire with his discovery.
> Instead, he sold his patent for the production of insulin to the
> of Toronto - for one dollar - so that the drug could be marketed cheaply
> and thousands of lives could be saved and improved.
> Since 1922, millions of lives worldwide have been saved by insulin,
> and because of Fred, diabetics are able to live normal lives where before
> it was impossible.
> Fred - Dr. Frederick Banting - was just an ordinary man in many
> but he was a man with a vision and the stubborn will to pursue his goal.
> He had the heart of a true Canadian hero.
> I might add, that if any of you are ever near London, Ontario, a visit to
> Banting museum is quite worthwhile. It is located in the house where he
> lived early in his career, and where he dreamed about his research
> at night. It was a student rental house for a number of years before
> made into a museum--I wondered what it must have been like for some of
> university students to know they slept in the same room where Banting
> thought of the idea of extracting insulin!
> Barbara, Mum of Claire 8
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