This feature appeared in the Toronto Star .
Banting home in London
memorial to insulin hero

Robert Liberty

LONDON, Ont. - Everyone knows that Sir Frederick Banting conceived his great discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921. Right?

Wrong. He developed insulin at U of T but his first great breakthrough - the illuminating idea that made the discovery possible - came in London, at 442 Adelaide St. N. to be precise. And a group of people, most of whom are alive only because of Banting's work, want to turn the old house into a memorial to him.

Banting was 28 and a struggling doctor just starting practice in 1920 when he bought the three storey brick house.

To supplement his income, he lectured at the University of Western Ontario medical school. At 2.30 a.m. on Oct. 30,1920, while thinking about a lecture on the pancreas, he conceived the idea for the possible treatment of diabetes and jotted it down in these words: "Ligate (tie off) pancreatic ducts of dog. Wait six or eight weeks. Remove residue and extract." The extract eventually was developed into insulin.

Until then, no one had found a way to help diabetics, although it was known that animals died of diabetes when their pancreas was removed.

Because UWO did not have the facilities to conduct experiments, Banting went to U of T, where he teamed up with Charles Best. Together, they carried out the investigations that led to the discovery of insulin, using Banting's basic idea.

The Canadian Diabetes Association calls Banting House, as his old home is known, the Birthplace of Insulin. It bought the building last year at a cost of $125,000 and is using it as offices for its Ontario division and the London and district branch.

The association wants to restore parts of the house as a museum, using period furnishings and some of Banting's original furniture, including his bed and desk. The museum, in Banting's old waiting room, would be open to the public. The remainder of the building would continue to be office space.

Banting, who died in a plane crash in 1941, was knighted for his discovery and he and Best were jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1923.

The estimated cost of restoring Banting House is $500,000, including a $100,000 trust fund to operate the museum.

Vic Mitrow, president of the London chapter of the association, said it is fitting that "we should purchase the building where an idea was born that has improved and prolonged the lives of millions of people."

He said diabetics are determined to turn it into "a monument to a great Canadian hero, in a country where there are far too few monuments to recognize its true heros."