Lives of the fellows

Frederick Grant (Sir) Banting

b.4 November 1891 d.21 February 1941
MC(1918) KBE(1934) MB Toronto(1916) MD Toronto(1922) DSc Toronto(1923) LLD Queen’s(1923) LLD Western Reserve(1924) DSc McGill(1936) MRCS LRCP(1918) FRS(1935) *FRCP(1936) Hon FRCS(1930)

Frederick Banting was born to William Thompson Banting and his wife, née Margaret Grant, at Alliston in Ontario and educated at its High School, at Victoria College and the University of Toronto. On graduation he was commissioned in the R.C.A.M.C. and served in France, gaining the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and almost losing an arm from a severe wound. After a year’s residency in surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto he set up in general practice at London, Ontario, in 1920, and while doing also part-time research in the department of physiology at the University of Western Ontario became deeply interested in the search then going on for the internal secretion of the pancreas.

Struck with the belief that failure to extract it was due to its destruction by the enzymes of external secretion, he decided to devote his boundless energy and enthusiasm to research, and was fortunate to find the full support of J. R. Macleod who advised him to work in his department with C. H. Best as a trained physiologist and J. B. Collip as an expert biochemist. The result was that in 1921 a quantity of the extract of the islet tissue of sufficient purity to treat a diabetic was produced.

Banting was elected to the post of lecturer in pharmacology, then to that of senior demonstrator in medicine, and in 1923 to that of director of the Banting and Best department of medical research. There, during the following sixteen years, he did valuable investigations on silicosis, cancer and the adrenal cortex until on the outbreak of war in 1939 he became head of the Central Research Committee of the National Research Council of Canada. This involved him in much travel, including two journeys to England, and it was on a visit to Newfoundland that he was killed in the crash-landing of a bomber. He was survived by the son of a first marriage in 1924 to Marion Robertson, and by his widow, née Henrietta Ball, whom he had married in 1939.

His many honours included the K.B.E., the F.R.S., the Nobel prize which he shared with Macleod, membership of learned societies in Europe and America, and the gold medals of the Society of Apothecaries and of the Canadian Medical Association. His hobbies were painting, in which he gained much distinction, and the collection of books and manuscripts associated with the development of medicine in Canada. His permanent memorials are the Banting Institute, the Banting Foundation, and the Banting memorial lectureship of the University of Toronto.

Richard R Trail

* This means that the Fellow was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the Fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical of General Science or Literature..."

[Brit.med.J., 1941, 1, 383-4 (p); Lancet, 1941, 1, 286, 551; Obit. Not. rov. Soc., 1942-4, 4, 21-6 (p), bibl.; Times, 26 Feb. 1941; D.N.B., 1941-50, 53-5; Lives R.C.S., 43-7, bibl; S. Harris. Banting’s miracle. Toronto, 1946 (p); L. G. Stevenson. Sir Frederick Banting. London, 1946 (p).]

(Volume V, page 22)

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