NABT members are fortunate to have Maura Flannery as editor of the "Biology Today" department of the ABT. I have always enjoyed and learned from her editorials. In the October 2005 issue, she discussed the "diabetes mystery" and seemed to imply that the history of the discovery of insulin is "too well known to biology teachers to be repeated here" (Flannery, 2005: p. 503). Flannery has written extensively about diabetes mellitus elsewhere and perhaps overestimates the knowledge of her colleagues in this respect. If I had not been assigned to teach a graduate-level course in the history of biology, I am quite certain that I would not have known anything about the discovery of insulin. I wondered if my formal education was atypical. Perhaps there has been a tendency, in many educational institutions from which prospective teachers graduate, to slight the historical aspects of their discipline in order to accommodate the increased load of new information they feel compelled to cram into their curricula. If this is true, there may be many other biology teachers who are unaware of the history of the discovery of insulin and how it merited a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1923) for two of its researchers. I looked through several physiology and general biology textbooks and found few (e.g., Keeton, 1967: pp. 327-328) that even mention Frederick G. Banting and Charles H. Best, let alone describe their famous experiments with dogs. They discovered that the dog's pancreas contains an "anti-diabetic factor," which they extracted and used successfully to treat diabetes, first in dogs and later in humans. Even the textbook The Human Body: Its Anatomy and Physiology (Best & Taylor, 1963) says nothing about these experiments. Was Best trying too hard to avoid the appearance of self promotion in his book by not mentioning Banting or himself and the parts they played in the discovery of insulin? So where are our teachers going to be exposed to the insulin story if not here in the pages of the ABT? Biology of the Pancreas
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The Discovery of Insulin
Anybody who wants to read by far the best book on the topic go to "Discovery of Insulin" by Michael Bliss from the University of Toronto, available at Amazone for a few bucks.Everybody else are copy cats.This is BY FAR THE BOOK on the topic.Bliss is a professor of history at the University of Toronto and had access to much of the original material.