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Happy Birthday Sir Frederick Banting!

Sir Frederick Grant Banting, famous for discovering insulin alongside Charles Best, was born in Essa Township, near Alliston, on November 14th, 1891. He was the youngest of six children. Banting spent his formative years on his family's farm, exploring the river banks on the way to and from school in Alliston.

Banting went first to divinity school at Victoria College in Toronto, before switching to the University of Toronto for medicine in 1912.

A note to Frederick Banting from an associate in Toronto dated 1913. 

A note of congratulations sent from a comrade in Toronto to Banting in Alliston, presumably on passing the first year of medical school, 1913. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

In 1916, at the age of 24, Banting enlisted and went overseas with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. When he received a serious wound in his arm, he was said to have kept working for another twelve hours, despite orders to go back to the field hospital. It is also said that it was recommended to Banting that his arm be amputated, but by treating it himself Banting was able to save it. He was awarded the Military Cross for his devotion to duty.

Frederick Banting in his First World War uniform 

2001-50 Frederick Banting in his WWI uniform, courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

After the war, Banting briefly lived and worked in London Ontario, before returning to Toronto. Having recently read studies on the pancreas, Banting went to work with Charles Best, in J.J.R. Macleod's laboratory at the University of Toronto, Department of Physiology, to isolate the hormone secreted from the pancreas gland, to find if it could be used in the treatment of diabetes. The result was insulin, one of the largest medical advances of the twentieth century. By January of 1922 insulin was ready to be distributed around the world. Banting et al. patented the drug, but gave up their rights to the University of Toronto, which used the proceeds to fund further research.

Many awards were then bestowed on Banting, including a knighthood and the Nobel Prize (shared with Macleod), the prize money of which Banting shared with his colleague Best.

Medical Heritage Society Medal 

2001-50 Medical Heritage Society Medal commemorating the discovery. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.     

Commemorative Medal      

2001-50 Commemorative Medal, presented to Dr. Henrietta Banting and one of 25 medals minted. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

Banting's pipe 

Part of the New Tecumseth Library's collection of pipes belonging to Sir Frederick Banting, now housed at the Simcoe County Archives. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

Banting was also an avid artist; his art has been displayed many times in the years since his death, demonstrating both Banting's artistic merit as well as how much esteem he was held in nationwide. For instance, in 1943 Toronto's Art Gallery exhibited 200 of Banting's pieces in an exhibition.

An unidentified sketch amongst the Banting papers 

2001-50 - An unidentified sketch amongst the Banting papers, housed at the Simcoe County Archives. Presumably a sketch by Banting, depicting part of either a medical procedure or medical research. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

Banting continued his work in medicine into the 1930s. Banting married twice and had one son. At the outbreak of WWII Banting rejoined the army. In 1941 he was called to England, but unfortunately he died on February 24th, when his plane crashed shortly after it took off from Newfoundland.

Alliston Herald report death of Sir Frederick Banting 

2001-50 Alliston Herald report the death of Sir Frederick Banting. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

Although Banting's life and work took him all over southern Ontario and the world, his roots are in Simcoe County. Banting's homestead, farmed by his father William Banting, was taken over first by Frederick's brother Thompson Banting, and finally by Thompson's son Edward, who farmed there into the 1990s. You can still visit Banting's birthplace in Essa Township: http://bantinglegacy.ca/ (hyperlink at Banting's birthplace).

Programme for Sir Frederick Banting Day front cover Programme for Sir Frederick Banting Day

2001-50 - Programme for Sir Frederick Banting Day, November 14th, 1995. Courtesy of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

Banting Memorial High School was opened in 1951, in Alliston where Banting had spent his own early school days. The school opened on April 2, 1951 and a portrait of Banting was unveiled there, in the presence of Charles Best, in December of the same year.

 

Official Program for the opening of Banting Memorial High School 

984-8 Official Program for the opening of Banting Memorial High School. 

The majority of the Banting material at the Simcoe County Archives is stored here by the New Tecumseth Public Library, who have gathered together an impressive collection. To see more about Banting, especially his early life, see this exhibit put together by the New Tecumseth Public Library: http://www.ntpl.ca/client/en_US/newtec/?rm=BANTING+DIGITA0%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7C0%7C%7C%7Ctrue (hyperlink with second half of last sentence).

 

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