Major Sir Frederick Grant Banting, MC, was born on November 14, 1891, at Alliston, ON. Educated at the Public and High Schools at Alliston, he later went to the University of Toronto to study divinity, but soon transferred to the study of medicine. In 1916 he took his M.B. degree and at once joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and served, during the First World War, in France. In 1918 he was wounded at the battle of Cambrai and in 1919 he was awarded the Military Cross for heroism under fire.
In November 1921, Banting hit upon the idea of obtaining insulin from the fetal pancreas. He removed the pancreases from fetal calves at a William Davies slaughterhouse and found the extracts to be just as potent as those extracted from the dog pancreases. By December 1921, he had also succeeded in extracting insulin from the adult pancreas. Pork and beef would remain the primary commercial sources of insulin until they were replaced by genetically-engineered bacteria in the late 20th century. In the spring of 1922, Banting established a private practice in Toronto and began to treat diabetic patients. His first American patient was Elizabeth Hughes Gossett, daughter of U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes.
Banting and Macleod were jointly awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Banting split his half of the Prize money with Best, and Macleod split the other half of the Prize money with James Collip.
In 1938, Banting’s interest in aviation medicine resulted in his participation with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in research concerning the physiological problems encountered by pilots operating high-altitude combat aircraft. Banting headed the RCAF’s Number 1 Clinical Investigation Unit (CIU), which was housed in a secret facility on the grounds of the former Eglinton Hunt Club in Toronto.
During the Second World War, he investigated the problems of aviators, such as “blackout” (syncope). He also helped Wilbur Franks with the invention of the G-suit to stop pilots from blacking out when they were subjected to g-forces while turning or diving.:255 Another of Banting’s projects during the Second World War involved using and treating mustard gas burns. Banting even tested the gas and antidotes on himself to see if they were effective.:256