Frederick Banting

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Sir Frederick Grant Banting
Fredrick banting.jpg
Born Frederick Grant Banting
(1891-11-14)November 14, 1891
Alliston, Ontario, Canada
Died February 21, 1941(1941-02-21) (aged 49)
Near Musgrave Harbour, Dominion of Newfoundland
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater University of Toronto
Known for Co-discoverer of insulin
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1923)
Flavelle Medal (1931)
Spouse Henrietta Ball (1912-1976)

Sir Frederick Grant Banting, KBE, MC, FRS,[1] FRSC (November 14, 1891 – February 21, 1941) was a Canadian medical scientist, physician, painter and Nobel laureate noted as the first person that used insulin on humans.[2]

In 1923 Banting and John James Rickard Macleod received the Nobel Prize in Medicine.[3] Banting shared the award money with his colleague, Dr. Charles Best. As of September 2011, Banting, who received the Nobel Prize at age 32, remains the youngest Nobel laureate in the area of Physiology/Medicine.[4] The Canadian government gave him a lifetime annuity to work on his research. In 1934 he was knighted by King George V. In 2004, Frederick Banting was voted fourth place on The Greatest Canadian.

Early years[edit]

Frederick Banting was born on November 14, 1891, in a farm house near Alliston, Ontario.[5] The youngest of five children (Nelson, Thompson, Kenneth and Essie)[6] of William Thompson Banting and Margaret Grant, he attended public high schools in Alliston. In 1910, he started at Victoria College, part of the University of Toronto, in the General Arts program. After failing his first year, he petitioned to join the medical program in 1912 and was accepted. He began medical school in September 1913.[7] In 1914, he attempted to enter the army on August 5 and then again in October but was refused due to poor eyesight.[8] Banting successfully joined the army in 1915 and spent the summer training before returning to school. His class was fast-tracked to get more doctors into the war and so he graduated in 1916 then reported for military duty in December, the day after graduation.[9] He was wounded at the battle of Cambrai in 1918. Despite his injuries, he helped other wounded men for sixteen hours, until another doctor told him to stop. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1919, for heroism.[10]

Banting returned to Canada after the war and went to Toronto to complete his surgical training.[11] He studied orthopedic medicine and, in 1919–20, was Resident Surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children. Banting was unable to gain a place on the hospital staff and so he decided to move to London, Ontario to set up a medical practice. From July 1920 to May 1921, he continued his general practice, while teaching orthopedics and anthropology part-time at the University of Western Ontario in London because his medical practice had not been particularly successful.[12] From 1921 to 1922 he lectured in pharmacology at the University of Toronto. He received his M.D. degree in 1922, and was also awarded a gold medal.[10]

Scientific studies[edit]

Banting (right) with Charles H. Best, ca. 1924

An article he read about the pancreas piqued Banting's interest in diabetes. Banting had to give a talk on the pancreas to one of his classes at Western University on November 1, 1920, and he was therefore reading reports that other scientists had written.[13] Research by Naunyn, Minkowski, Opie, Schafer, and others suggested that diabetes resulted from a lack of a protein hormone secreted by the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Schafer had named this hormone insulin. Insulin was thought to control the metabolism of sugar; its lack led to an increase of sugar in the blood which was then excreted in urine. Attempts to extract insulin from ground-up pancreas cells were unsuccessful, likely because of the destruction of the insulin by the proteolysis enzyme of the pancreas. The challenge was to find a way to extract insulin from the pancreas prior to it being destroyed.[10]

Moses Barron published an article in 1920 which described experimental closure of the pancreatic duct by ligature which further influenced Banting's thinking. The procedure caused deterioration of the cells of the pancreas that secrete trypsin but left the islets of Langerhans intact. Banting realized that this procedure would destroy the trypsin-secreting cells but not the insulin. Once the trypsin-secreting cells had died, insulin could be extracted from the islets of Langerhans. Banting discussed this approach with J. J. R. Macleod, Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto. Macleod provided experimental facilities and the assistance of one of his students, Dr. Charles Best. Banting and Best, with the assistance of biochemist James Collip, began the production of insulin by this means.[10]

Banting was appointed Senior Demonstrator in Medicine at the University of Toronto in 1922. The following year he was elected to the new Banting and Best Chair of Medical Research, endowed by the Legislature of the Province of Ontario. He also served as Honorary Consulting Physician to the Toronto General, the Hospital for Sick Children, and the Toronto Western Hospital. At the Banting and Best Institute, he researched silicosis, cancer, and the mechanisms of drowning.

In 1938, Banting's interest in aviation medicine resulted in his participation with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in research concerning the physiological problems encountered by pilots operating high-altitude combat aircraft. Banting headed the RCAF's Number 1 Clinical Investigation Unit (CIU), which was housed in a secret facility on the grounds of the former Eglinton Hunt Club in Toronto.[14]

During the Second World War he investigated the problems of aviators, such as "blackout" (syncope).[10] He also helped Wilbur Franks with the invention of the G-suit to stop pilots from blacking out when they were subjected to gravitational forces while turning or diving.[15] Another of Banting's projects during the Second World War involved using and treating mustard gas burns. Banting even tested the gas and antidotes on himself to see if they were effective.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Banting developed an interest in painting beginning around 1921 while he was in London, Ontario. Some of his first pieces were done on the back of the cardboard his shirts came back from the dry-cleaners in.[17] He became friends with The Group of Seven artists A. Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris, sharing their love of the rugged Canadian landscape. In 1927 he made a sketching trip with Jackson to the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Later that year they traveled to RCMP outposts in the Arctic on the Canadian Government supply ship Beothic. The sketches, done both in oils on birch panels and in pen and ink, were named after the places he visited: Craig Harbour, Ellesmere Island; Pond Inlet, Baylot Island; Eskimo tents at Etach; others were untitled. Jackson and Banting also made painting expeditions to Great Slave Lake, Walsh Lake (Northwest Territories), Georgian Bay, French River and the Sudbury District.[18]

Banting and Marion Robertson on their wedding day

Banting married twice. His first marriage was to Marion Robertson in 1924; they had one child, William (born 1928). They divorced in 1932 and Banting married Henrietta Ball in 1937.[10]

In February 1941, Banting died of wounds and exposure following a Lockheed L-14 Super Electra/Hudson crash in Musgrave Harbour Newfoundland. He was en route to England to conduct operational tests on the Franks flying suit developed by his colleague Wilbur Franks.[19]

Banting and his wife are buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.


An oil painting of Sir Frederick Banting in 1925 by Tibor Polya, now in the possession of the National Portrait Gallery of Canada

Banting's name is immortalised in the yearly Banting Lectures, given by an expert in diabetes, and by the creation of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research of the University of Toronto; Sir Frederick G Banting Research Centre located on Sir Frederick Banting Driveway in the Tunney's Pasture complex, Ottawa, ON;[20] Banting Memorial High School in Alliston, ON; Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, ON; Sir Frederick Banting Alternative Program Site in Ottawa, ON; Frederick Banting Elementary School in Montreal-Nord QC and École Banting Middle School in Coquitlam, BC. Banting House, his house in London, Ontario, was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1997.[21][22] The Banting Interpretation Centre in Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador is a museum named after him which focuses on the circumstances surrounding the 1941 plane crash which claimed his life. The crater Banting on the Moon is also named after him for his contributions to medicine.

In 1994 Banting was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was nominated as one of the top 10 "Greatest Canadians" by viewers of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. When the final votes were counted, Banting finished fourth behind Tommy Douglas, Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau.

During the voting for "Greatest Canadians" in late 2003, controversy rose over the future use of the Banting family farm in New Tecumseth which had been left to the Ontario Historical Society by Banting's late nephew, Edward, in 1998. The dispute centred around the future use of the 40 ha (100 acre) property and its buildings. In a year-long negotiation, assisted by a provincially appointed facilitator, the Town of New Tecumseth offered $1 million to the Ontario Historical Society (OHS). The town intended to turn the property over to the Sir Frederick Banting Legacy Foundation for preservation of the property and buildings, and the Legacy Foundation planned to erect a Camp for Diabetic Youths. The day after the November 22, 2006 deadline for the OHS to sign the agreement, the OHS announced that it had sold the property for housing development to Solmar Development for more than $2 million.[23]

The Town of New Tecumseth announced it would designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act. This would prevent its commercial development and obligate the owner to maintain it properly. OHS objected. The Ontario Conservation Review Board heard arguments for and against designation in September, 2007 and recommended designation of the entire 100-acre (0.40 km2) property in October. The Town officially passed the designation by-law on November 12, 2007.[24]

Banting's artwork has gained attention in the art community; A painting of his called "St. Tîte des Cap" sold for CDN$30,000 including buyer's premium at a Canadian Art auction in Toronto.[25] He and his insulin discovery have also been depicted in various media formats, including comic books, the biography by Michael Bliss, and on television. The 1988 television movie Glory Enough for All depicted the search for insulin by Banting and Best, with R. H. Thomson starring as Banting. Banting is also portrayed by Jason Priestley boarding his fatal flight in the 2006 historical drama Above and Beyond. In January, 2007, insulin was named first in a cross-Canada survey by the CBC to identify the 10 Greatest Canadian Inventions.[26]

The "Major Sir Frederick Banting, MC, RCAMC Award for Military Health Research", sponsored by the True Patriot Love Foundation, is awarded annually by the Surgeon General to the researcher whose work presented at the annual Military and Veterans Health Research Forum is deemed to contribute most to military health. It was first awarded in 2011 in the presence of several Banting descendants.[27][28]

The "Canadian Forces Major Sir Frederick Banting Term Chair in Military Trauma Research" at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre was established in 2012. The first Chair holder is Colonel Homer Tien, Medical Director of Sunnybrook's Tory Regional Trauma Centre and Senior Specialist and Trauma Adviser to the Surgeon General.[29][30]

The Government of Canada administers the "Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Program", one of the most prestigious early-career academic awards in the world.

Awards and honours[edit]

Prior to the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1923—which he shared with Macleod—he received the Reeve Prize of the University of Toronto (1922). In 1923, the Canadian Parliament granted him a Life Annuity of $7,500. In 1928 Banting gave the Cameron Lecture in Edinburgh. He was a member of numerous medical academies and societies in Canada and abroad, including the British and American Physiological Societies, and the American Pharmacological Society. In 1934 he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) and became an active Vice-President of the Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK). In May, 1935 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[1][31][32]

Flame of Hope[edit]

A flame of hope was lit by Her Majesty the Queen Mother[33] in 1989 as a tribute to Dr. Frederick Banting and all the people that have lost their lives to diabetes. The flame will remain lit until there is a cure for diabetes.[34] When a cure is found, the flame will be extinguished by the researchers who discover the cure. The flame is located at Sir Fredrick Banting Square in London, Ontario, Canada beside the Banting House National Historic Site of Canada.[33][35]

Time Capsule[edit]

A time capsule was placed in the Sir Frederick Banting Square in 1991 to honour the 100th anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting's birth. It was buried by the International Diabetes Federation Youth Representatives and Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn. It will be dug up when a cure for diabetes is found.[36]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Sir Frederick Banting received honorary degrees from several Universities:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Best, C. H. (November 1, 1942). "Frederick Grant Banting 1891-1941". Obituary Notices of the Fellow of the Royal Society 4: 20–26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1942.0003. 
  2. ^ "Frederick Grant Banting (1891-1941) Codiscoverer of Insulin". Journal of the American Medical Association 198 (6): 660–661. 1966. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110190142041. 
  3. ^ "Frederick G. Banting - Facts". Nobel Media AB. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions: Nobel Laureates". Nobel Media AB. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  5. ^ Levine, Israel E. (1959). The Discoverer of Insulin: Dr. Frederick G. Banting. Copp Clark Publishing Company. 
  6. ^[dead link]
  7. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  8. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  9. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Frederick G. Banting - Biography". Nobel Media AB. Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  11. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  12. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 48. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  13. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  14. ^ Canadian Space Agency. Canada's Aerospace Medicine Pioneers - World War II Jump-Starts Aviation Medicine in Canada. Retrieved on: 2012-01-03. Archived October 13, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 255. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  16. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 256. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  17. ^ Bliss, Michael (1992) [1984]. Banting: A Biography. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-8020-7387-5. 
  18. ^ MacDonald, Colin S. "Banting, F. G. (Frederick Grant), Sir". A Dictionary of Canadian Artists 1. National Gallery of Canada. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. 
  19. ^ National Defence Canada, Canadian Forces Health Services. History and Heritage - Chapter IV: Heroes and Honours. Retrieved on: 2012-01-03. Archived May 23, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Banting House National Historic Site of Canada". Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. March 15, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Banting House National Historic Site of Canada". Parks Canada. November 23, 1997. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Sir Frederick Banting homestead sold to developer, family outraged" (PDF). Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (PDF) 176 (12): 1692. June 5, 2007. doi:10.1503/cmaj.070613. Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  24. ^ Banting, Peter M., Dr. (23 November 2007). "The Banting Homestead is now protected!". The Global Gazette ( Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Auction Result". Ritchies. November 20, 2006. Archived from the original on November 28, 2007. 
  26. ^ "The Greatest Canadian Invention". Archived from the original on May 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  27. ^ retrieved 2012-11-29[dead link]
  28. ^ retrieved 2012-11-29 Archived May 23, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ retrieved 2012-11-29 Archived May 24, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Military research chair awarded" (Press release). Sunnybrook Foundation. July 4, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  31. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660 – 2007" (PDF). Royal Society. July 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Banting, Sir Frederick Grant". Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  33. ^ a b "Sir Frederick G. Banting Square". Canadian Diabetes Association. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Frederick Banting". Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  35. ^ Gini-Newman, Garfield; Aitken, Bob; Eaton, Diane; Holland, Dick; Montgomery, John; Riddock, Sonia (2000). Canada: A Nation Unfolding (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Ryerson School. 
  36. ^ "History of Diabetes". Canadian Diabetes Association. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded, 1881 - present" (PDF). University of Western Ontario. p. 30. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  38. ^ a b c d e f "Banting, Frederick Grant, Sir, Papers" (PDF). Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  39. ^ "McGill University Honorary Degree Recipients" (PDF). McGill University. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Banting, F. G.; Best, C. H. (2009). "The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine: Vol. VII St. Louis, February, 1922 No. 5". Nutrition Reviews 45 (4): 55. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1987.tb07442.x. 
  • Bliss, Michael (1990) [1982]. The Discovery of Insulin (3rd ed.). University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8344-9. 
  • Jackson, A.Y. (1943). Banting as an Artist. Ryerson Press. 
  • Shaw, Margaret Mason (1976). Frederick Banting. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. ISBN 0-88902-229-1. 
  • Stevenson, Lloyd (1946). Sir Frederick Banting. Ryerson Press. 
  • Harris, Seale (1946). Banting's miracle; the story of the discoverer of insulin. Lippincott. 
  • Walters, Eric (2005). Elixir. Puffin Canada. ISBN 0-14-301641-5. 
  • Raju, T. N. (1998). "The Nobel Chronicles. 1923: Frederick G Banting (1891-1941), John J R Macleod (1876-1935)". Lancet 352 (9138): 1482. PMID 9808029. 
  • Hudson, R. P. (1979). "New light on the insulin controversy (Frederick G. Banting and J. J. R. Macleod)". Annals of internal medicine 91 (2): 311. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-91-2-311. PMID 380438. 
  • Fletcher, K. (2007). "Sir Frederick Banting homestead sold to developer, family outraged". Canadian Medical Association Journal 176 (12): 1691–1692. doi:10.1503/cmaj.070613. PMC 1877854. PMID 17548378. 
  • Shampo, M. A.; Kyle, R. A. (2005). "Frederick Banting--Nobel Laureate for Discovery of Insulin". Mayo Clinic Proceedings 80 (5): 576. doi:10.4065/80.5.576. PMID 15887423. 
  • MacLeod, J. B. A. (2006). "Frederick G. Banting: Giving Prospects for Life from the Past to the New Millennium". Archives of Surgery 141 (7): 705–707. doi:10.1001/archsurg.141.7.705. PMID 16847245. 
  • Elliot, J. C. (2004). "Banting--a Nobel artist". The Medical journal of Australia 181 (11–12): 631. PMID 15588191. 
  • Todhunter, E. N. (1953). "Frederick G. Banting, November 14, 1891-February 22, 1941". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 29 (11): 1093. PMID 13108539. 
  • Les caprices du Nobel by William Rostène, ed. L'Harmattan (Paris), 2013 (in French) ISBN 978-2-343-01844-7

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Earl of Birkenhead
Cover of Time Magazine
27 August 1923
Succeeded by
David Lloyd George