Banting, Sir Frederick Grant (1891–1941)

Citation metadata

Date: 2007
Encyclopedia of World Scientists, Rev. ed.
Publisher: Facts On File
Series: Facts on File Science Library
Document Type: Biography
Pages: 1
Content Level: (Level 5)

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About this Person
Born: November 14, 1891 in Alliston, Ontario, Canada
Died: February 21, 1941 in Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Nationality: Canadian
Occupation: Medical researcher
Other Names: Banting, Frederick Grant; Banting, Frederick G.
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Banting, Sir Frederick Grant (1891–1941)

Canadian

Physiologist

Sir Frederick Grant Banting devised a method for isolating the pancreatic hormone insulin, which regulates blood-sugar levels and thereby controls the disease diabetes mellitus. For this discovery Banting received the 1923 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, which he shared with JOHN JAMES RICKARD MACLEOD. The contributions to the research of Charles H. Best and James Bertram Collip were not recognized officially, so Banting shared his prize money with Best and Macleod shared his with Collip. Banting was the first Canadian to receive a Nobel Prize.

Banting was born on November 14, 1891, near Alliston, Ontario. His parents were Margaret Grant, the daughter of a miller, and William Thompson Banting, a farmer of Irish parentage. Banting was engaged to Edith Roach in 1920, but the marriage never materialized. Banting did marry Marion Robertson in 1924, and the couple had one son, but the unhappy marriage ended in divorce in 1932. Banting married Henrietta Ball, a technician in his department, in 1939.

Banting's father sent him to Victoria College of the University of Toronto to enter the Methodist ministry, but in 1912 Banting shifted to studying medicine. With the onset of World War I the university accelerated Banting's course of study, and he received his M.D. in December 1916.

The Canadian Army Medical Corps inducted Banting as a lieutenant immediately upon his graduation. He served as a surgeon at the orthopedic hospital in Rams-gate, England, where he sustained an arm injury that prompted the government to award him a Military Cross in 1919 for gallantry under fire. After the war Banting set up practice in London, Ontario, supplementing his scant income with a position as a demonstrator in surgery and anatomy at the University of Western Ontario.

In May 1921 Banting abandoned his failing practice to conduct an experiment inducing pancreatic ischemia as a means of isolating insulin. Macleod offered him space in his University of Toronto laboratory as well as the assistance of Best while Macleod himself departed for summer vacation. During his absence Banting and Best succeeded in isolating what they called “isletin,” named after the islets of Langerhans, the section of the pancreas that produces the hormone, but upon his return Macleod vetoed this name in favor of the traditional name derived from the Greek, insulin. By January 1922 the team, joined by Collip to produce a pure extraction, completed successful clinical trials on themselves and on a 14-year-old diabetic.

Recognition of the significance of this discovery was almost immediate: In addition to the Nobel Prize, the University of Toronto established the Banting and Best Chair of Medical Research in 1923, a position that Banting himself filled before it expanded into the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research. That year the Canadian parliament granted Banting an annuity. In 1924 the Banting Research Foundation was established, and in 1930 the University of Toronto named its new medical school buildings the Banting Institute. In 1935 the Royal Society of London inducted Banting as a fellow.

In 1934 King George V, a diabetic, knighted Banting, a symbolic act of appreciation of the man who literally extended the life expectancy of all diabetics through the controlling influence of insulin. Banting's own life was cut short when his plane crashed in Newfoundland on February 21, 1941.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|CX4065100055