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Frederick Grant Banting

(1891—1941) physician and medical researcher


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(1891–1941)

Canadian physician who, with the US physiologist Charles Herbert Best (1899–1978), isolated the hormone insulin in a form that could be used to treat diabetes. Banting received the 1923 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for this work and was later (1934) knighted.

Banting was born in Ontario, the fourth son of a farmer. In 1910 he began to train as a Methodist minister at the Victoria College of the University of Toronto but two years later transferred to the medical school. In 1915, before completing his studies, he joined the Royal Canadian Army Air Corps but was soon sent back to complete his studies, graduating in 1916 and then being awarded a commission. He served in France and England and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918. After World War I he returned to Canada to work at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. In 1920 he began a private practice in London, Ontario, and worked as a part-time demonstrator at the University of Western Ontario to supplement his income.

In 1921, under the guidance of the Scottish physiologist John MacLeod (1876–1936), he began his work on diabetes mellitus. With his assistant Best, who was then a student, he succeeded in extracting insulin – the hormone that regulates carbohydrate metabolism – from the pancreas of dogs. He and MacLeod shared the Nobel Prize for this work but Banting shared his prize money with Best. In the same year Banting became professor and head of the newly created Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto and in 1930 he was made director of the Banting Institute for Medical Research in Toronto. Banting's later researches concerned the function of the adrenal cortex, cancer, and aviation medicine. He was killed in a plane crash in 1941 in connection with his aviation studies.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics — History.


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