It’s a piece of Canadian history about to be lost… but also one that underscores the lives of millions of people all over the world, who wouldn’t be here today without the work of Banting and Best and their remarkable discovery …
A little background, from Canada’s Prairie Preacher: In 1921, Canadian researcher Dr. Fredrick Banting, and his assistant Charles Best discovered the process to extract insulin from the islets of langerhans in the human pancreas. Despite reluctance from their superiors at University of Toronto, Banting persisted until he and his research team successfully treated dogs suffering from diabetes.
Then in 1922, they successfully treated a 14-year-old boy with the insulin they had derived in their lab. In February 1922, they published a journal article outlining their research and discovery, and in 1923 Banting and MacLeod (his supervisor) were awarded the Nobel Prize — which was contested, btw, since Best received no credit, but that’s another story.
Today’s story is that the historic Banting Homestead is about to be lost to posterity. The 100-acre property, located about an hour’s drive north of Toronto, apparently fell into disrepair after the last Banting kin died in 1999. That was Edward Banting, nephew of Sir Frederick Banting, who bequeathed the Homestead and farm buildings to the Ontario Historical Society (OHS) with the understanding that it be taken care of for future generations to enjoy and also turned into a camp for diabetic children. Instead, the OHS has sold the property to to the highest bidder — housing developers.
Other descendants, neighbors, and supporters are hopping mad. “Why would a (formerly) respected, more than one hundred year old historical society do such a thing? … The OHS is simply greedy,” they write on their web site, www.discoveryofinsulin.com
A group called The Legacy Foundation hopes to build a camp for diabetic children on the Banting Homestead, and is asking for your support by way of writing protest letters, etc.
Whether or not you care to get involved in the Homestead dispute, the Story of Insulin is one of the most fascinating in medical history. Despite that progress-fueled tagline stating that “Insulin is not a cure,” let us not forget how many of us would literally not be alive today without it.