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Sir Frederick Grant Banting was a Canadian physician, physiologist,
and Nobel winner in 1923 for the discovery of the hormone insulin, used in
Banting was born November 14, 1891, on a farm near Alliston, Ontario.
The death of his friend made him having the desire to be a doctor. However,
his father was a devoutly religious man, and hoped that Frederick would
become minister. After he graduated from high school, the conflicts with
his parents begun. His parents finally persuaded him to enrol in the
liberal art course at Victoria College, Ontario. In 1910, he and his
cousin Fred Hipwell began their studies at Victoria College.
However, Banting's mind was still on medicine. After several
arguments with his parents, he entered the University of Toronto Medical
School in the fall of 1912. His cousin quoted, "He was a steady,
industrious student. He had no top marks or even honor standing, but there
never was any doubt that he would pass."
World War I
While he was still in school, World War I started. In the spring of
1915, his name was enlisted in the Canadian Army. However, his commanding
officer, arranged him for his education. Hours after the successful
completion of his final exams in December 1916, he was back in uniform.
Within a few months, he was serving in the Canadian Army Hospital at
Ramsgate, England. He then voluntarily transferred to the front line near
Cambrai, France because he felt he was not doing enough. He used his
intelligence to capture three fully armed Germans without any use of
weapons! This earned a rank of the Captain.
He kept working at the frontline. On the morning of September 28,
1918, a shell burst close by and a piece of shrapnel buried itself in
Banting's right arm. It was so bad that a doctor informed him that they
had to amputate his arm. However, he refused, He did an operation to
himself. Even though it was a long, slow process, his arm finally did heal.
After World War I
By the time he was recovered, he went back to Toronto. He opened an
office as a surgeon. However, after 4 months, he only earned 14 dollars!
Therefore, he transferred to University of Western Ontario as a teacher.
Winning the Nobel Prize
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-he had brought a dying victim of diabetes back to life. This discovery led
him to win the 1923 Nobel Prize.
Even though he could turn wealthy by patenting insulin, he chose to go
back to University of Toronto, and made sure that public could have insulin
injection cheap and easily.
The world continued to honor and reward him. In 1934, he was made a
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by King George V.
The Death of Sir Banting
Later in his life, he joined the army in World War II. Aviation
medicine became his favourite line of research. Shortly before his
departure on a mission to Great Britain, he was uneasy and told his cousin
Fred Hipwell that he was "a little bit afraid." On February 21, 1941, the
plane carrying Banting 50 miles out from Newfoundland airport, heading over
the Atlantic Ocean. One of the engines sputtered and failed. It crashed
while landing on the ground.
Thousands mourned Banting's passing. He was buried as a soldier in a
simple ceremony. The last words said over the flag- draped coffin were:
"It is not given to everyone to die for his country, for freedom and
justice, to die in the path of duty....Such was the earthly end of
Frederick Grant Banting. Tragic? Yes, but also triumphant."
Discovery and Contribution
The main discovery of Sir Banting of course was the insulin that could
cure Diabetes Mellitus.
What are Insulin and Diabetes Mellitus
Insulin is a hormone that produces by the islets of Langerhans, which
are the groups of cells in pancreas. Diabetes Mellitus would cause the
entry of glucose impaired, a result either of a deficiency in the amount of
insulin produced or of a blocking of its action. The sugar builds up in
the blood and is excreted in the urine. This would cause the body became
extremely thirsty, weight is lost and feels very tired. Since the body is
lack of glucose, it begins to break down the stored fat. The blood would
become acidic and interfere with respiration. Usual outcome of this would
be diabetic coma if it is not treated properly. During that time, in U.S.,
almost 300,000 people died of diabetes every year. Therefore, the
discovery of insulin was a really incredible contribution to the world.
How did he discover it?
At two o'clock in one morning during 1920, while he was struggling
with his sleep, he got an idea about a diabetic dog:"Tie off pancreatic
ducts of dogs. Wait six to eight weeks for degeneration. Remove the
residue and extract." However, he was only a resident in University, he
had to ask the professor for permission. At that time, the chief professor
J.J.R.Macleod didn't his motive. All he gave Banting was eight weeks in a
laboratory in an attic, ten dogs, and an assistant who knows how to measure
the level of sugar and blood. The assistant's name was Charles M. Best.
By May 1921, he started his experiment. He chloroformed the first dog.
He opened the abdomen and tied off the pancreatic ducts with little loops
of catgut, which would normally stop the flow of the juices. This should
result a diabetic pancreas. However, he failed this easiest part because
the catgut had disintegrated, permitting the digestive juices to flow.
However, that didn't discourage him. The next time, he use the silk thread
and tied several dogs in two or three places. Then he waited.
By the time the waiting period was over, the eight weeks period was
ended too. Fortunately, Macleod was away in Scotland. However, he still
had to sell all of his properties in order to have money to continue.
Nine days later, they had completely removed the pancreas from a dog,
which gave it a severe case of diabetes. It was not dead but it could not
even hold its head up.
He chloroformed this dog and another duct-blocked dog. He removed the
pancreas from the duct-blocked one and took the islet cells. He grounded
it with sand, and mixed it with salt water. Then, he injected it into a
vein of the dying dog. For the next minutes, Best, his assistant, kept
taking samples of blood from the sick dog. After about an hour, Best
shouted,"Her sugar is down. It is almost normal!" This was a major
discovery of modern science. They made a dying diabetic animal survive
again. They named the islet cells isletin.
However, the next day, the dog was dead. This meant the cells only
brought a temporary drop in sugar level. However, it was not practical to
kill healthy dogs to save the sicked one. Therefore, they had to think of
another way to obtain isletin. Banting got an idea from his early days
experiment from the farm. The farmers always threw away the cows' embryos,
which was a resource to get the cells. They mixed the mixture of alcohol
and acid, inserted it into the cows. It worked. The mixture destroyed the
digestive juices that interfered with the isletin. Now, they got enough
isletin to continue their experiment.
Finally, they had to prove the most important part. Would isletin be
safe to human? Banting and Best inserted the isletin into each other,
which resulted no negative reaction. Also, they tested it with a boy laid
close to death. It made the boy having a daily gain in strength and health,
as long as he kept on taking it.
By that time, Macleod returned. He began to turn all of his energies
to support Banting. However, the first thing he did seem to be
meaningless: changes isletin into insulin. Then he assigned several
experts to support Banting. This helped Banting to perform his experiments
more convenient and easier.
The news of discovery spreaded over the world. Again this earned him
a Nobel Prize in 1923 and a honourable life until his death in 1941.
We should be proud with the contributions by Sir Frederick Grant
Banting to this whole world. Without all his hard works, more people may
have died because of diabetes. He also helped Canada to establish a good
medication position in the world.