Monday, November 14, 2016

It's kind of a big deal

Canada Post Millennium Collection stamp in 2000
It was 125 years ago, on November 14th, 1891 when Sir (Dr.) Frederick Banting was born in Alliston, Ontario, not far from where I'm sitting right now. Today we celebrate World Diabetes Day, in part because we reach out to others to educate, but to also acknowledge that because of Banting's ingenuity, so many people with diabetes are here today. 

Before 1921, a diagnosis of diabetes was grim. And even though some complications of diabetes might still be grim, improved technology and health care has improved lives of those of us living with Type 1 Diabetes (previously known as 'Juvenile Diabetes'). 

To honour Sir Banting's discovery, I thought I'd share some fascinating historical facts with you. If this were one of those somewhat annoying Facebook posts that you see in your timelines, the subject line would be “5 things you didn’t know about the discovery of insulin”. (You may notice I decided not to go down that road, where if you did click on such an 'article', you might also expect to be treated to some snake oil cure for diabetes. And this isn't that, I promise). 

So here we go...
  1. Banting had an idea reading a research paper at the end of October 1920. He secured some lab space from J.J.R. Macleod at the University of Toronto in November where he worked with Charles Best, a medical student. After a lot of hard work and long hours, the resulting refined hormone insulin was given to a young boy in a coma at Toronto General Hospital in January 1921. The time it took for this entire process? In case you missed that timeline, it was only 2-1/2 months!
  2. Banting, Best, and Macleod signed over their patents for $1 each to the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to produce insulin to make it available to all people, everywhere. Where Toronto didn't have the manufacturing and distribution resources, this company did. Although insulin has been refined substantially, it is still the same hormone as it was invented 95 years ago. 
  3. Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923. Banting almost refused the award because it didn't include his partner, but instead shared his monetary prize with Best. 
  4. Banting was a war hero in WWI, and died in a plane crash in WWII. 
  5. Banting was also an acclaimed painter, and was a close friend of Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson

So, World Diabetes Day is kind of a big deal. It is remarkable what started with one man's idea and some ingenuity, it transformed into a discovery that has saved countless lives, including my own. And how cool is that? 

Google Doodle - November 14, 2016 (95 year anniversary of discovery of insulin)


  1. It is a very big and cool deal.

    This item has been referred to the TUDiabetes Blog page for the week of November 7, 2016

  2. Thank you so much, Rick! As I was writing it, the magnitude of how this came to