Banting’s death

Banting died in February 1941.  He was headed to England on a Lockheed Hudson bomber as part of a war time research study on high altitude medicine.  Shortly after take-off from Gander, the plane developed mechanical problems.  The pilot managed to land the plane in a remote area of Newfoundland in the snow, but hit a tree.  The radio operator and navigator were killed instantly, and Banting was fatally injured.  He survived the night, but died the next day. The pilot and plane were found three days later by a search party.[Toronto Daily Sun ].

Fred Banting died when his plane, bound for Europe, crashed in Musgrave Harbor shortly after taking off from an airfield in Newfoundland.
Fred Banting died when his plane, bound for Europe, crashed in Musgrave Harbor shortly after taking off from an airfield in Newfoundland.

Once Banting died, Charles Best’s version dominated the story of how insulin was discovered.  Best became a well respected and well known biomedical researcher in Canada, and by the time he died, in 1978, his version was influential in both the popular and academic press.

The authoritative account of the discovery of insulin was written by the historian Michael Bliss and first published in 1982.  He has concluded that Macleod’s reputation was unfairly tarnished by first Banting, then Best.  Bliss’s analysis was that Banting had a personality conflict with Macleod, while Best was more driven by a desire for personal recognition for himself.  Bliss’s conclusion is that Macleod, along with Banting, Best, and Collip, played a key role in the discovery of insulin. [The eclipse and rehabilitation of JJR Macleod, by M. Bliss]

The discovery of insulin led to the miraculous recovery of diabetic patients.  Once they began, and continued, insulin therapy, their health appeared to return completely.  However, within a decade it became clear that diabetic patients on insulin developed a distinct set of complications.   The battle against the disease thus moved to that front.  How and why did these complications come about?