Insulin is Discovered

On this day in 1921, at the University of Toronto, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best first isolated a pancreatic extract which had anti-diabetic characteristics. The idea of which had originally come to Banting in a dream one night in the fall of 1920.

After the extract was successfully tested on dogs with diabetes, Professor J.J.R MacLeod later provided Banting and Best with lab space and scientific direction to help produce and purify insulin.

J.B. Collop later provided technical expertise which led to the purification of insulin for use on patients with diabetes.

A year later, a man called Leonard Thompson was the first person to receive an insulin injection. The rest, as they say, is history.

Prior to 1922, the only treatment for diabetes was a severely restricted diet. Patients were essentially awaiting a death sentence.

Thanks to Banting’s idea, with the help of Best, Collop and MacLeod, this hormone that was first isolated 99 years ago today has gone onto save the lives of millions of people with diabetes.

I believe Banting sold the patent for insulin for pennies. He wanted his remarkable discovery to be available to everyone who needed it.

Now, I want you to walk over to your fridge. Have a look at the sticker that your Pharmacist has attached to your box of insulin. What you should be able to see is the full list price, which I am extremely lucky to receive heavily subsidised by the Australian government.

That price, which may be even higher in other places in the world, is a sobering reality that many people with diabetes in the world face in accessing this life saving juice.

So today, on the 99th birthdate of insulin, I want to say thank you to the many amazing advocates who are fighting for affordable insulin all over the world, with the support of not for profit organisation T1International.

I also want to acknowledge organisations such as Life for a Child, who are helping to provide life saving insulin to people in under privileged communities around the world.

I also want to thank Banting, Best, Collop and MacLeod for allowing me to be here today and drink plenty of coffee and eat plenty of cake.

Source: World History Project.


  1. Thank you Frank for this most important reminder that thousands and thousands of us owe our lives and health to these discoverers. And we should also cognizant that insulin, so essential to those with near to absolute deficiency of their own insulin, has become a focus for battle in terms of access and cost, in third world countries, and due to capitalism, health insurance perfidy and pharmaceutical company greed, in the USA. We need to support all the brave efforts of those who seek to booster insulin supply and availability to all those diabetics in need, particularly during this time of pandemic.

  2. Michele dN

    Sad that humanity has evolved to a point where the food industry keeps us sick & big pharma keeps us alive, all in the name of greed & profit.

Leave a Reply