Banting House's Humble Hero
Dr. Frederick Banting is the ultimate Canadian ambassador. You can see why at Banting House National Historic Site in London, Ontario.
Every now and then, you come across a travel stereotype that's true - or, at least, I'd like to believe that all the travel stereotypes about Canadians are true. Apparently we're quite a likable bunch! But reputations are not built overnight. Modern travelers owe a debt of gratitude to some of our earliest unofficial ambassadors; those who turned a spotlight on Canada and helped us shine.
One such remarkable pioneer was Dr. Frederick Banting. Renowned for discovering insulin and employing it for the treatment of diabetes, Banting was extremely deserving of the honors that flooded in as a result of his research. But as he rose to super-stardom in the 1920s and 1930s, he never lost touch with his roots. And his humble, hardworking persona continues to resonate with Canadians, who voted him into 4th place on the Greatest Canadians list in 2004. When I think of the best qualities of a Canadian, at home or abroad, I think of Dr. Banting. Here's why.
A wry sense of humor
As a community doctor during the time of prohibition, some of Dr. Banting's earliest prescriptions were for medicinal alcohol! Fortunately, he saw the humor in the situation and, after a slow start, he built up his practice in the front room of his house while teaching part time at the University of Western Ontario. You can see how his medical practice was set up for yourself if you visit Banting House National Historic Site in London, Ontario.
A selfless teammate
Serving as a medical officer in World War I, Dr. Banting's arm was severely injured during the course of his duties. Ignoring his own safety, he continued to work tirelessly on the front lines to assist others for 16 hours. Dr. Banting was eventually awarded the Military Cross in recognition of his heroism.
In World War II, he enlisted to serve again and did so in the capacity of medical research. He was so dedicated to his work that he even subjected himself to mustard gas burns so he could study the effects and test potential antidotes.
A humble trailblazer
If you want to impress people at your next trivia night, ask them to name the first Canadian to appear on the cover of Time Magazine? Chances are, they won't think of Dr. Banting! It's easy to forget just how devastating it was to be diagnosed with diabetes and the incredible suffering experienced by patients before insulin was available. But the discovery of insulin was more than just an academic breakthrough - it changed the lives of millions and made headlines around the world.
A generous colleague
At the age of 32 Dr. Banting became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, a record he continues to hold. He shared this honor with university researcher John MacLeod. However, Banting felt his former assistant and student, Dr. Charles Best, should have been recognized as well and he split his Nobel prize money with Best - an unheard of act of generosity.
Banting, MacLeod, and the rest of the team working on the development of insulin also generously turned over the patent rights to insulin to the University of Toronto so that no one individual would profit from the discovery.
A quiet talent
What did a brilliant scientist like Banting do in his downtime to relax? Paint gorgeous nature scenes! A bona fide artistic talent, his work attracted the attention of none other than A.Y. Jackson, a founding member of the Group of Seven. Jackson served as Banting's friend and mentor as Banting made his own important contributions to the Canadian artistic landscape. Banting House has a superb collection of his artist works that are well worth a visit.
Banting House is more than just a point of pilgrimage for those diagnosed with diabetes. It should be on everyone's must-visit list for London. When you stop by, you'll walk in expecting to learn a lot about medicine -but you'll leave bursting with pride. Dr. Banting's character was every bit as remarkable as his talent and his selfless service to his country will inspire you, no matter what your nationality.
I'd love to hear from you? What historical figure inspires you? Have you ever traveled for the purposes of learning more about a famous person?
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Our visit to Banting House was sponsored in part by SWOTC. All writing, research, and opinions are our own.
17/4/2015 06:02:32 am
I remember learning about Alexander Graham Bell and just soaking it in when I got to visit his home!
17/4/2015 06:43:02 am
That's close to where I grew up in Cape Breton! Another amazing Canadian pioneer.
Angela V OSM
17/4/2015 06:50:43 am
Wow lots of interesting info. thanks for posting :)
17/4/2015 07:12:26 am
Glad you enjoyed it!
17/4/2015 05:41:54 pm
This was an amazing read, it really taught me a lot; it was super interesting!
18/4/2015 01:26:39 am
Thank you! Hope you get to visit Banting House in person some day soon!
18/4/2015 01:31:48 am
Such a well-written post!
18/4/2015 02:58:39 am
Thanks Olga! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Sometimes us Canadians fly under the radar - we're a pretty low key group - so it's nice to brag once and a while about a really special person like Dr. Banting.
Dr. Banting sounds like an incredible human being. He was kind in every way. I enjoyed knowing that he was generous to his assistant and that he painted.
18/4/2015 03:00:30 am
Gaudi really is synonymous with Barcelona, isn't it? I love when someone remarkable leaves their stamp on the city for others to enjoy.
18/4/2015 03:13:21 am
I will be in London for a few months next year. I will be sure to visit this House. But why is the Banting House not in Canada?
18/4/2015 12:32:53 pm
It is! It's in London, Ontario, not London, England. Hope you get to Canada soon!
18/4/2015 09:20:25 am
I love that he and his team turned over the patent, that's a very unselfish act. It's so great learning about such giving and humble people, you don't see it much anymore. Thanks for sharing!
18/4/2015 12:34:51 pm
He was so generous - and this was during an era when a medical practice wasn't always such a lucrative career. I was in awe of his character all throughout our visit.
19/4/2015 02:09:36 am
Now I'm embarrassed- I can't think of a single good book about Banting! But anything by Pierre Burton does a good job of addressing Canadian history in general.
19/4/2015 03:27:50 am
It's so easy to forget that diabete was an automatic death sentence before he discovered insulin - it really was the medical discovery of the century and it's amazing how many people have been helped.
19/4/2015 08:57:02 am
When I was doing my Masters I working in the Banting and Best building for several months. Loved the history that came with it. Canadians have a lot to celebrate when it comes to scientific contributions.
19/4/2015 01:16:19 pm
That is awesome - what an incredible environment to work in.
19/4/2015 02:48:54 pm
I ended up in the broom cupboard (under The House of Commons, London) which Emily Davison hid in during to avoid a census count. That was a highlight of my life!
20/4/2015 03:02:29 am
That is actually pretty darn awesome. And to think so many people believe that broom cupboards are just for Harry Potter!
20/4/2015 03:02:55 am
wow, thanks for the education, I didn't know any of this!
20/4/2015 03:37:55 am
Glad you enjoyed!
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