Sir Frederick Grant Banting

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Biography

Sir Frederick Grant Banting was born on November 14, 1891 in Alliston, Ontario.  He began his studies at the University of Toronto in divinity, but quickly transferred over to the study of medicine and received his M.B. degree in 1916.  After serving in the First World War and receiving the Military Cross award for heroism under fire, he returned to Canada to practice medicine in London, and later at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. 

In 1920, Banting was encouraged to pursue a theory he had by U of T physiology professor, John James Rickard Macleod, regarding a possible connection between an internal secretion of the pancreas and diabetes, which would set the course for his ground-breaking research and the discovery of insulin.   Banting worked alongside Charles Best, a medical student and assistant, and later, James B. Collip, an experienced researcher and professor of biochemistry, in pursuing his theory. In January of 1922, a crude pancreatic extract, later purified and named insulin, was administered to its first human patient, 14-year-old diabetic, Leonard Thompson.  Insulin proved to be the first effective treatment for diabetes.  Banting and Macleod were jointly honoured with the Nobel Prize award in 1923.  Banting split his prize money with Best, who he felt was more responsible for the discovery than Macleod.

Banting served the University of Toronto for many years, being appointed Senior Demonstrator in Medicine in 1922, and in 1923 was elected to the Banting and Best Chair of Medical Research.  He was also appointed Honorary Consulting Physician to the Toronto General Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children, and the Toronto Western Hospital and earned the LL.D. degree from Queens University, and the D.Sc. degree from the University of Toronto.  In addition to his awards and degrees, Frederick Banting had the honour of being knighted in 1934.

Banting’s military career continued in the Second World War, where he served as a liaison officer between the British and North American medical services, yet ended tragically when he was killed in Newfoundland in February of 1941 in an air disaster.

 

Personal Story

Frederick Banting married Marion Robertson in 1924 and had one son, William (born 1928).  The marriage between Banting and Robertson ended in divorce in 1932, and in 1937, Banting married Henrietta Ball.

For leisure, Banting was an avid painter and spent much time with A.Y. Jackson, one of the members of the Group of Seven, a famous group of Canadian landscape painters.  He was also a member of the Arts & Letters club at the University of Toronto, which still convenes today.

 

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