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Frederick Banting

Sir Frederick Grant Banting

BornNovember 14 1891(1891-11-14)
Alliston, Ontario, Canada
DiedFebruary 21 1941 (aged 49)
FieldMedical scientist
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
Known forCo-discover of insulin
Notable prizes Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1923), Order of the British Empire
Religious stanceUnited Church of Canada

Sir Frederick Grant Banting, KBE, MC, MD, FRSC (November 14, 1891 – February 21, 1941) was a Canadian medical scientist, doctor and Nobel laureate noted as one of the co-discovers of insulin.

Banting was born in Alliston, Ontario, Canada. After studying medicine at the University of Toronto and graduating in 1916, he served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during World War I. He won the Military Cross during the war. After the war, he returned to Canada and between 1919 and 1920 completed his training as an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Dissatisfied with his practice and fascinated by his idea, Banting left London and moved to Toronto. There, on 17 May, 1921 he began his research at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of professor John Macleod. He was assigned a single assistant to help him, the young graduate student Charles Best.

During a summer of intense work, Banting tested his idea, performing operations on dogs to tie up their pancreatic ducts, which resulted in a partial atrophy of the pancreas. The pancreas would be then removed some weeks later, with the hope that it would then contain a high concentration of uncontaminated secretion of the pancreas.

After some months of work, it appeared to Banting that his method was working, and that he could keep dogs with diabetes alive with his extract. He enthusiastically reported his findings to Macleod, who had been away on his summer holidays during this time. Some people said that Banting's experiments were crude and did not prove the validity of his thinking, which was not physiologically sound in any case. However, the results encouraged further intensive work in the fall, with direct participation by Macleod and the chemist James Collip. The efforts of the team in 1921-1922 culminated in developing the ability to obtain a useful extract, named insulin.

This was hailed as one of the most significant advances in medicine at the time. Insulin was not only discovered, but put into mass production in a matter of months. Hence, almost immediately it began to extend the lives of millions of people worldwide who suffered from the endocrine disease diabetes mellitus that could not be treated and had a very poor prognosis. People who suffered from problems with fat and protein metabolism, leading to blindness and then death only had a short time after the onset of the illness. Leonard Thompson was the first person to be administered.

In 1923 Banting and Macleod received the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Banting shared the award money with Best. The Canadian government gave him a lifetime to work on his research. In 1934 King George V bestowed a knighthood on him, making him Sir Frederick Banting.


Military research

In the 1930s, Banting became alarmed by the rise of Nazi Germany and the prospect of war. He started several research efforts, including playing a major role in the creation of the first production G-suit, which was used by Royal Air Force pilots during the war. He was also involved in research in biological weapons, both in terms of countermeasures and methods for mass production of anthrax, although the exact nature of this research remains unclear.

At the pinnacle of his career, Banting was killed on February 21, 1941, when the Lockheed Hudson patrol bomber in which he was traveling to England crashed shortly after takeoff from Gander Airport in Newfoundland. The crash site was located roughly 16 km from the community of Musgrave Harbour. Only the pilot survived with help from the locals.

The exact purpose of his flight to England is unclear, but it appears likely he was going to meet with colleagues in an effort to convince them to produce biological weapons as a last-ditch weapon in case of a German invasion of England. Another possibility was Banting's desire to work on the front lines. He had been denied his request to do so a month earlier, as Canadian officials believed he would be more useful in Canada doing research. Banting was able to dress the pilot's wounds before he succumbed to his own injuries.

During his lifetime he was never fully comfortable with the medical establishment of the day. He had always been an avid amateur painter and in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety he felt around the medical community he befriended the legendary Canadian artists, The Group of Seven. Many of his surviving canvases bear a striking resemblance to the Group of Seven's work.

He was married twice and had one son from his first marriage, William Banting. William died in May, 1998 in British Columbia. Orphaned at a young age after the death of his mother, he later worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and kept some distance from his father's legacy. "Bill" Banting may never have been aware that his real father was the author of "From Cape Town to Clyde," this author distantly related to both Frederick Banting and Banting's first wife.

He is interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

Banting's Legacy

  Banting's name is imortalized in the yearly Banting Lectures, given by an expert in diabetes and by the creation of Banting Memorial High School in Alliston, ON; Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, ON; Sir Frederick Banting Alternative Program Site in Ottawa, ON; and École Banting Middle School in Coquitlam, BC. 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 Banting crater on the Moon is also named after him.

In 1994 Frederick 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.

Ironically, during the voting for "Greatest Canadians" in late 2004, 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 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. Solmar reported in the press that their deal with the OHS had been arranged five months earlier. The Town of New Tecumseth plans to designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act. This would prevent its commercial development and obligate the owner to maintain it properly. OHS has objected. A Conservation Review Board heard arguments for and against designation on September 10 and 11, 2007, and will make its recommendation in early October, 2007.

In January, 2007, cross-Canada survey by the CBC to identify the 10 Greatest Canadian Inventions, Insulin topped the list in first place.

A painting of his called St. Tîte des Cap sold for $30,000 (cdn) including buyer's premium at a Canadian Art auction in Toronto[1].

Banting was distantly related to Standard Oil co-founder, and 'Father of Florida', Henry Morrison Flagler. They were 3rd cousins 3 times removed. He was also relative to William Banting, the discoverer of the first effective low-carbohydrate diet used in weight control.


  • The Discovery of Insulin by Michael Bliss, University of Chicago Press, 1982, ISBN 0-226-05897-2.
  • Banting as an Artist by A.Y. Jackson, Ryerson Press, 1943.
  • Discoverer of Insulin - Dr. Frederick G. Banting by I.E. Levine, New York: Julian Messner, 1962.
  • Frederick Banting by Margaret Mason Shaw, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1976, ISBN 0-889-02229-1.
  • Sir Frederick Banting by Lloyd Stevenson, Ryerson Press, 1946.
  • Banting's miracle; the story of the discoverer of insulin by Seale Harris, Lippincott, 1946.
  • Elixir by Eric Walters, Puffin Canada, 2005, ISBN 0-143-01641-5.


  1. ^ Auction Result - Ritchies, November 20, 2006

NAME Banting, Sir Frederick Grant
SHORT DESCRIPTION Medical scientist
DATE OF BIRTH November 14, 1891
PLACE OF BIRTH Alliston, Ontario, Canada
DATE OF DEATH February 21, 1941
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frederick_Banting". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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