A History of Insulin

The video below gives an excellent history of the discovery of insulin. WARNING: There are pictures shown that may be disturbing to some of you. This is a very well prepared, and very educational video. I hope that many of you will appreciate this.


Richard, thanks for posting. I think my parents would appreciate seeing this.
I thought I knew the history of the discovery of insulin, but this gives more details I didn’t know.

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Thanks for posting this, Richard. I knew most of it but this brings the story together with exceptional clarity and conciseness. Very illuminating; I plan to show it to a number of people.

Thanks again. :sunglasses:

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It’s interesting that in that era, Banting and Best could go from having discovered their extract’s efficacy in dogs to treating human patients in a matter of months, while now thanks the FDA.s (‘foot dragging administration’s’) interference, it would take a good 16 years to bring such an advance to patients. Administrators only think of the risks of new treatments, while paying scant attention to the number of people who will suffer horribly or die while the treatment is being approved. Rationally, they should balance the benefits of caution against the costs of delay, but they only think of the value of caution. This idiocy is nowhere more in evidence than in the case pf Abigail Alliance v. von Eschenbach, where the court refused to let women dying of breast cancer try an experimental drug because ‘it might be risky to their health,’ but what on earth is the risk to health in a drug that might save their lives to women who are already dying a cancer?!

Michael Bliss published an excellent book in 1985 on the history of the development of insulin, which inspired me to do some research on the original papers published during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries en route to the discovery. Researchers were badly misled for a long time by thinking that diabetes was a disease of maldigestion and thus a stomach or intestinal problem, but with the research of von Mehring and Minkowski in 1889 proving that some excretion from the pancreas of dogs could cause diabetes, everyone started looking for ways to isolate it. Dr. Zeuzler must have discovered it already in 1906, since he described giving his extract to a patient who had what seems to have been an episode of severe hypoglycemia. Zeuzler misinterpreted that as an anaphylactic shock as a response to the foreign protein in the extract and so discontinued his experiments. Another researcher who seems to have developed insulin before Banting and Best was Dr. Paulescu of Romania, who failed to develop his 1916 discovery to the world because, as he put it, ‘he was distracted by World War I.’

When I was looking for the paper that Banting read to prepare for the lecture he had been asked to deliver on pancreatic secretions, which was the ultimate stimulus for his discovery of insulin, I found the article in the University of Toronto science library, where it was covered with pencil marks in the distinctive handwriting of Banting. I am guessing that I found traces of his initial response to the first impetus for his famous work, but ultimately, that’s just a guess.


Seydlitz, thanks so much for this reply! I have learned much from this.

@Richard157 Wow!!! That was amazing…I thoroughly enjoyed the history lesson. Thank you for posting this…it really puts our lives today (with all of our treatment options) into perspective. We have so much to be grateful for.

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It is true that science builds on previous discoveries. Enlightening to see what others had done before 1920. And how everything came together with the help of MacLeod and Collip

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