Banting becomes a national hero

Banting was unusual for a Nobel Prize winner.  He was only 32 years old when he was awarded the prize. He remains the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He had no formal training in research and no advanced degree.  He was awarded an MD degree in 1922, probably as compensation for working without pay on the insulin research.

Banting’s discovery of insulin and Nobel Prize brought him great fame in Canada.  The provincial government of Ontario provided him with money to fund his research after passing the “The Banting and Best Medical Research Act”.  He ended up as the head of the Banting and Best Institute where he managed research in a variety of areas, none of them noteworthy.  Banting’s hate for Macleod carried on. In an unpublished draft of his discovery of insulin written in 1940, he described Macleod this way,

The most selfish man I have ever known . . . grasping, selfish, deceptive, self-seeking and empty of truth . . . unscrupulous . . . a coward and a skulking weakling.[bliss 2013, rehabilitation of jrr macleod]

Banting’s narrative of his discovery dominated the popular view.  Despite winning the Nobel Prize, Macleod was cast aside in Toronto.  The discovery was generally attributed to Banting and Best.

Macleod left Toronto in 1928. He took a position at the University of Aberdeen in his native Scotland.  He and Banting never spoke again.  Banting refused to attend his farewell dinner in Toronto.  Macleod died in 1935.

After Macleod’s death, Banting’s mercurial hate was focused on Charles Best.  After the great excitement of the Nobel Prizes and the discovery of insulin, Best had gone off to the University of London (UK) to get his PhD with Henry Dale in 1928.  Best, unlike Banting, was a real scientist.  Best had made other, minor compared to insulin, but significant, scientific discoveries.

When Macleod left for Scotland, the university hired Charles Best to fill his position at the University of Toronto.  Best began promoting his version of the discovery of insulin, in which he played a prominent role.  This myth of Banting and Best was begun, which angered Banting.