Today I, Jordyn Eyton, will become a scientist here on My Dog Ate My Blog who will be describing to you exactly what insulin is and what it does for people with diabetes. No, I’m just kidding! I definitely won’t be explaining insulin mostly because I don’t think I could but also because we will be focusing on something other than science. Today, we will be analyzing the historical significance of the development of Insulin hence the title of this post, Insulin: Historically Significant or Not? Very newspaper headline-y if you ask me. This will be organized like a checklist of three main criteria that will help me prove to you that the development of insulin is one of the most historically significant medical discoveries of the 20th century.

1. Was it notable at the time? ✅

The discovery of insulin was extremely notable at the time, so notable that Frederick Banting and John MacLeod received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1923. Of course they split the prize money with their fellow scientists, Charles Best and James Collip. What made it even more important at the time was the fact that they only sold the patent for insulin for $1 because they wanted this lifesaving medicine to be widely available, they didn’t want people to be spending hundreds of dollars on a necessary treatment.  

2. Did it result in change? ✅

There you can see a very accurate example of what life was like for people with diabetes before insulin and after! Ok, maybe it was a little bit oversimplified but I think you get the idea. Diabetes was a death sentence, you had maybe a year or two left to live once you were diagnosed. When Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered the “pancreatic extract” or insulin, everything changed. With regular doses of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, people with diabetes are no longer controlled by the disease, they have the ability to control it and live the rest of their lives. This discovery saved and continues to save the lives of millions across Canada and across the globe as people with diabetes continue to use insulin to improve their quality of life and stay alive. Even 100 years later, we continue to see how the development of insulin created a ripple effect in the medical world, how it “ignited a century of discovery.” U of T has built a culture of discovery, innovation, and collaboration around insulin. Creating growth in public health education, the creation of The School of Hygiene, the collaboration of scientist and researchers from across the medical world, AI techniques, and the pioneering, innovative approaches to understand the biological causes of depression. These are just a couple examples of what we see leftover after a couple scientists removed a pancreas of a dog. 

3. How symbolic is it? ✅

Awwwww how cute! All 4 of the amazing scientists are walking through time together! *queue audience awwww* Not only is the discovery of insulin one of the greatest medical discoveries in Canadian history, I would also say, maybe I’m bias, it is one of the worlds greatest medical discoveries. We have already been over what it did back in the 1920’s and we have covered what it has done since then so obviously it should get some credit now, some commemoration. Of course it does! On our $100 bill here in Canada, there is, pictured, an old insulin bottle and a scientist peering into a microscope. And how timely for this blog post, this year we are celebrating 100 years of Insulin and all that it has done for the world and continues to do! I wonder what it will lead to next?

Alright, as you can see, the discovery of insulin passes the historical significance test at least by my standards but I am sure many others would say the same. It was notable and significant at the time, it resulted in change and solved a past (and current) issue, and it is symbolic and memorialized for it’s significance today. What more could you ask for!? Anyway, I hope that after reading this blog post I have persuaded you into believing that The Discovery of Insulin is extremely historically significant and I also hope you will go on to do a little bit of your own research. No, not just to make sure I’m not making all of this up, to actually learn about this amazing Canadian, medical, lifesaving discovery! It has been a century after all, celebrate it! As someone who wants to go into medicine in the future it is so amazing to see how just one medical discovery, one clinical trial has kickstarted and constructed a century of innovation. It makes me wonder what will come next?

– Jordyn