Frederick Banting, physician, artist, researcher, and Canadian army officer. Born in 1891, he discovered insulin in 1921 after losing one of his close friends to diabetes.
This invention earned him international fame, for which he received many honors and awards, and he became the first Canadian and the youngest person (32 years old) to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology, jointly with John James Richard MacLeod in 1923.
Birth and upbringing
Frederick Banting was born on November 14, 1891 in Alliston, Ontario, Canada. It is a city with a cool and rainy climate all year round, and is characterized by its large areas allocated for agriculture.
Banting was the youngest of the five children of his father, William Thompson Banting, and his mother, Margaret Grant. He loved drawing from a young age and made it a hobby. At the same time, he practiced medicine. He was one of the most famous Canadian doctors during the 19th century, which enabled him to obtain membership in a number of medical associations and institutions inside and outside the country.
Banting provided great services to his country during World War I by participating in the Canadian Medical Corps, as he was on the front lines of the army, and suffered physical injuries as a result of his participation in this war.
Frederick Banting married twice in his life. His first marriage was to Maron Robertson in 1924, and he had one son whom he named William. In 1928, they separated. He married for the second time in 1932 to Henlaita Paul, but they did not have children.
Scientific training and practical life
Banting was educated in the public schools of Alliston, and after World War I was declared on August 4, 1914, Frederick tried to enlist in the Canadian Army directly the next day, but his application was rejected on the grounds of poor eyesight.
After obtaining advanced degrees in medicine, and being able to complete most of his training, he joined the medical service in the Canadian Army, and was conscripted in the spring of 1915, as the Canadian Army was then in need of medics in the war.
The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto at the time designed a special curriculum for the 1917 cohort, which Banting was part of, as the fifth year was condensed into a special semester in the summer and fall, to engage in the war that the country was experiencing.
This exceptional semester saw Banting graduate on 9 December 1916 with a bachelor’s degree in medical studies, and he reported for active duty the next morning.
Banting first worked in a hospital before being sent to the army’s front lines as a battalion medical officer in June 1918. In late September of that year, Banting was wounded at the Battle of Cambray in Belgium, but that did not prevent him from completing his mission in The Canadian Army Medical Corps, where he continued to treat patients until he was replaced by another doctor.
The Belgian city of Cambrai was one of the cities occupied by British forces during World War I, and the Battle of Cambrai was the battle in which tanks were used successfully for the first time in history.
Although Frederick Banting’s wound was not serious, it took a long time to heal, which forced him to remain in the hospital until December 4, 1918, that is, more than 3 weeks after the end of the war, after which he returned to resume his duties as a medical officer. , where he first worked in England, before being discharged from military service, and remained in Toronto for an additional year to complete his surgical training at Children’s Hospital.
In 1920, after completing his duties as a surgeon, Banting began his own practice as a physician and surgeon, and by the fall of that year decided to leave Toronto for London, Ontario, where the many deaths of patients and the lack of funds prompted him to take a part-time job teaching orthopedics at the University of Western Ontario. In London, Canada.
On the night of October 31, 1920, while taking notes on an article written by physician and surgeon Moses Baron for a lecture on the pancreas, Banting conceived the “idea” that would change not only his life, but the lives of countless patients around the world.
The first experiments to discover insulin
After serving as a medic during World War I, Banting became interested in diabetes, and remained focused on the possibility of harnessing the internal secretions of the pancreas to help diabetics regulate their blood sugar levels.
Because these people cannot metabolize carbohydrates, their blood sugar levels rise to a life-threatening degree.
Frederick Banting – who was enthusiastic about his idea – spoke to the professor of physiology at the University of Toronto, Professor MacLeod, who was interested in the young Banting’s hypothesis, but he was initially reluctant to give carte blanche to a complete stranger at the time, until the professor ended up giving in to Dr. Banting’s insistence, He was allowed to conduct his research in his laboratory.
In May 1921, with the help of medical student Charles Best, Frederick Banting began the first experiments to discover the drug insulin. The two researchers intensified experiments on dogs, and their first results were described as disastrous, because they caused the death of most of the animals during the intervention.
On August 1, 1921, for the first time, a diabetic dog was injected with pancreatic extract, which made it possible to stabilize blood sugar levels. With the help of biochemist James Collip, the team was able to isolate increasingly pure and effective pancreatic extracts.
On January 11, 1922, the name of 14-year-old Leonard Thompson, who was suffering from diabetes, was registered as the first diabetic patient in history to be treated with pancreatic extract at Toronto Hospital, within a few days, after he arrived at the hospital in critical condition. It almost took his life.
Thanks to this achievement, Frederick Banting immediately gained enormous international fame, as he was offered a sum of $1 million for the rights to the discovery, according to what was indicated by identical media sources, but in response to humanitarian rather than financial motives, Banting and Charles Best chose to transfer the rights to the University of Toronto for a symbolic dollar. In October 1922.
In cooperation with MacLeod, Banting became the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. He was also crowned a knight (in 1934) and is considered one of the most important figures in Canada and the world throughout history.
In 1923, news of the discovery of insulin spread around the world like wildfire. Shortly after, the medical company Eli Lilly began producing insulin on a large scale. It was not long until enough insulin was produced to supply the entire North American continent. In the following decades, manufacturers developed a variety of slow-acting insulins, the first of which was made by Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals in 1936.
Insulin has been extracted from cows and pigs for many years as a treatment for diabetes, and it has saved millions, but it was not ideal because it caused complications and allergies in a number of patients, so the first genetically modified “human” insulin was produced in 1978 using Escherichia coli bacteria.
In 1982, Eli Lilly sold the first commercially available synthetic human insulin under the brand name Humulin. Insulin is available today in many forms, ranging from regular human insulin, similar to what the body produces on its own, to ultra-fast, long-acting insulin.
Thanks to decades of research, people with diabetes can now choose from a variety of formulations and methods of taking insulin based on their personal needs and lifestyles, from Humulin to Novolog and from insulin pens to pumps.
After his discovery of the drug insulin, Frederick Banting became a popular hero and the most famous Canadian in the 1920s. People expected that he would discover anti-drugs to overcome other diseases, which burdened the Canadian researcher who strove hard to prove that his discovery of insulin was not just a coincidence.
After the end of his cooperation with Charles Best, Banting devoted his research to finding medicines for cancer, and he conducted strange tests, as he conducted an experiment on royal jelly (a substance secreted by bees), and he also tried to work on reviving drowning victims, but these efforts were not crowned with success.
While supervising a group of young scientists at the Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto, Banting provided assistance to scientist Lopez-Franks, who invented the anti-gravity suit, a suit that helps pilots remain alert when exposed to the effects of gravity. His team also did useful work on silicosis (an occupational lung disease) and other problems.
By the late 1930s, Frederick Banting had become a seasoned leader of medical research efforts in Canada, a role due to his fame and enthusiasm for research. With the beginning of World War II, Banting took a keen interest in related medical issues, effectively launching Canada’s first research efforts in aviation medicine and problems. Related to chemical and bacteriological weapons.
Frederick Banting became Canada’s main liaison officer with British researchers at the beginning of World War II, so he decided to go to England again in February 1941 on a Hudson plane that traveled from Newfoundland to the United Kingdom.
Awards and achievements
During his career filled with research and discoveries, Frederick Banting received several awards and honors thanks to his achievements that changed the lives of many patients around the world. He received:
- Medical specialty certificate.
- Honorary doctorates in 1924 from the University of Western Ontario, the University of Toronto, Queen’s University Kingston, the University of Michigan, and Yale University (received from these universities in the same year).
- An honorary doctorate from McGill University in Montreal in 1931, and a doctorate from the University of Quebec in 1939.
- In 1934, he was knighted in the Order of the British Empire in the British Royal Society.
- He was elected a Fellow of the British Royal Society in 1935.
- The Military Cross from the Canadian Army in recognition of heroism during World War I is a third-level military decoration awarded to officers.
- The Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology is shared with John James Richard MacLeod, who helped him discover insulin in 1923.
- Banting was also a member of a number of medical academies and societies inside and outside Canada, including the British and American Physiological Society, and the American Pharmaceutical Association.
Frederick Banting died on February 21, 1941, near the port of Musgrave, Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada, when his plane crashed on its way to England during World War II. It had taken off in bad weather and experienced engine problems before crashing near a pond in Newfoundland, where Frederick Banting was mortally wounded, and died before help could arrive.
Another story states that when the plane experienced engine problems, it hit a tree before falling, which led to Banting’s death the next day.