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Frederick G. Banting had to overcome a lifetime of obstacles and sell his car to fund his experiments, but his perseverance finally paid off

Frederick G. Banting

Frederick G. Banting is most famous for being the youngest ever Nobel Laureate in the area of physiology and medicine. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 at the age of 32.

Believe it or not, after studying orthopedic medicine, training as an orthopaedic surgeon, and teaching orthopedics at a university, the field of orthopedics was not his claim to fame. It was actually the discovery of insulin that made him famous and earned him the Nobel Prize.

It would actually be more accurate to say he successfully isolated and produced the hormone insulin for the treatment of diabetes. However you want to say it, it was a major achievement.

Perhaps even more remarkable than his contribution to science was his perseverance. He faced a nearly unsurmountable series of hurdles leading up to his discovery:

  • He was not a strong student in spelling or language.

  • He failed out of his first year of college.

  • He had poor eyesight.

  • He was shy.

  • He made a second attempt at college, enrolling in medical school, but his family was not supportive of his plan to become a doctor.

  • One day after graduating from medical school, he was shipped off to WWI.

  • He was wounded during the war.

  • After the war, he completed his surgical residency, but was not able to find a job.

  • Banting’s first attempt at establishing a medical practice was a failure.

  • He took a part-time gig as a professor to make ends meet.

  • When Banting began experimenting with insulin, his methods were harshly questioned by the professor who had offered him the use of the university lab.

  • Banting sold his car to fund his experiments.

  • Banting, with his assistant Charles Best, resorted to using the pancreases of discarded cow embryos and unwanted dogs.

  • Banting floundered tragically while presenting his initial findings to the American Physiological Society.

In 1992, Banting’s perseverance finally paid off. He and Best found clinical success and the next presentation of their findings earned a standing ovation from the American Physiological Society. Their discovery quickly became front page news. En masse, diabetics from all around the world began arriving for treatment.

And, even though their discovery could have been enormously profitable, Banting and Best agreed to sell the patent rights to the University of Toronto. For one dollar.

They never received payment.



The information on this blog should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations.


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