OTD: U of T doctor Frederick Banting announces discovery of insulin

On today’s date in 1921, University of Toronto doctor Frederick Banting and student Charles Best officially announced their team’s discovery of insulin, which is still used today in treating the deadly disease of diabetes.

According to an article published on the Nobel Prize website about the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a “feared disease that most certainly led to death” prior to Banting and Best’s discovery.

“Doctors knew that sugar worsened the condition of diabetic patients and that the most effective treatment was to put the patients on very strict diets where sugar intake was kept to a minimum. At best, this treatment could buy patients a few extra years, but it never saved them. In some cases, the harsh diets even caused patients to die of starvation.”

The discovery eventually earned Banting and team supervisor John James Rickard Macleod a Nobel Prize.

“The news of the successful treatment of diabetes with insulin rapidly spread outside of Toronto, and in 1923 the Nobel Committee decided to award Banting and Macleod the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,” reads the Nobel website.

1998 $100 INSULIN COIN

In 1998, the Royal Canadian Mint celebrated the discovery of insulin by featuring Banting on a $100 14-karat Proof gold coin. The coin, designed by Robert Ralph Carmichael, depicts the Flame of Hope—an eternal flame kindled in 1989, to be extinguished only when a cure for diabetes is developed and only by the team that discovers said cure.

Although insulin is not a cure for diabetes, its miraculous arrival in the early 1920s is seen as one of the biggest discoveries in medicine.

SPECIFICATIONS

Face Value: $100
Mintage: 11,220
Composition: 58.33 per cent gold, 41.67 per cent silver
Weight: 13.338 grams
Diameter: 27 mm
Edge: Lettered
Finish: Proof

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