The Search Begins

(Insulin. Greatest Discoveries with Bill Nye: Medicine, 2005)


World Health 11
Diagrams of the pancreas (World Health 11)

     Events leading to the discovery of insulin began in 1869, when German medical student, Paul Langerhans, discovered a cluster of unknown cells in the pancreas later found to produce insulin. The cells were ultimately named “the islets [or islands] of Langerhans” in his honor (“The Discovery of Insulin”). However, he was unsuccessful in isolating the potential treatment for diabetes secreted by the islets of Langerhans

Banting Digital Library
Frederick Banting (Banting Digital Library)

Frederick Banting

     While attending the University of Toronto, a lecture regarding the pancreas and its cells captivated Frederick Banting ("Frederick Banting"). His biochemistry professor, A. McCallum, described how these cells produced Hormone X, what he referred to as the "secret treasure". "Perhaps someday," McCallum mused, "someone in this class will be the one to find the secret treasure" (Bankston 16). Years later,  Banting's own lecture preparations sparked a revolutionary idea.