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[IP] Events That Lead To Discovery (Long)
Of course I don't know of the accuracy of all that is stated in this story
but it is rather motivational. This was sent to me by email so I credit the
author as it was sent to me.
An Unlikely Hero
By Mary Turner
Fred hated school. Having grown up on a farm near Alliston, Ontario, 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 did 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 for field medics
facilitated the early graduation of many doctors, including Fred.
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 a 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 convinced 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 experiments. 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 producing the
hormone preparation they called insulin were discouraging. Many of the
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
The first patient to be treated with Fred and Charles's insulin formulation
was a fourteen-year-old boy named Leonard. The year was 1921. For two years,
Leonard had been on the "Allen diet" - a starvation diet for diabetics that
allowed only 450 calories a day. The poor boy weighed only 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 developed
methods for quick, large-scale production, and by the end of 1922, diabetics
from all over the world were coming to Toronto for treatment. It had been
only two short years from the first, rudimentary experiments with 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
Fred could have made himself a millionaire with his discovery. Instead, he
sold his patent for the production of insulin to the University 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
Fred - Dr. Frederick Banting - was just an ordinary man in many respects,
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.
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