Insulin stamp coming mid-April

At an April 14 virtual event, Banting House curator Grant Maltman will showcase a forthcoming stamp marking the 100th anniversary of Frederick Banting’s middle-of-the-night discovery while recounting the medical breakthrough that led to life-saving insulin.

On July 27, 1921, while working at the University of Toronto with research assistant Charles Best, visiting biochemist James Collip and physiology department chair John Macleod, Banting isolated the hormone insulin for the first time. The team produced diabetes symptoms in the canines before providing them with insulin injections to create normal blood-glucose levels.

“On the brink of death from diabetes, 13-year-old Leonard Thompson was skeletal,” recounts Canada Post’s April 2021 Details magazine, released today. “The starvation diet he had been following – the only known treatment for diabetes in the early 20th century – had reduced him to less than 29 kilograms (65 pounds). As he lay in critical condition in Toronto General Hospital in January 1922, his father gave doctors permission to try an experimental drug developed by University of Toronto researchers that had never been injected into humans. Although Leonard had an adverse reaction to the initial formula, a second round of injections – administered after further refinements – saved his life. From these early trials came the medical breakthrough now known as insulin. The diagnosis of diabetes was no longer considered a death sentence.”

For their work, Banting and Macleod were jointly awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; however, they chose to share the prize money with Best and Collip. In 1934, Banting was also knighted, becoming Sir Frederick Banting. Today, millions of people with diabetes continue to be treated with this life-saving drug.

The set’s official first-day cover is serviced with a Toronto cancel.


The April 14 University of Toronto ceremony is one of several “Insulin100” events marking the hormone’s isolation.

The commemorative stamp will be issued a day later, on April 15. A full feature will be published in CSN Vol. 46 #2.

Ottawa’s Lowe-Martin printed 130,000 booklets of 10 stamps using six-colour lithography. Each stamp measures 40 millimetres by 25 millimetres and has three-sided tagging.

Lowe-Martin also printed 7,000 official first-day covers, each measuring 190 millimetres by 112 millimetres.

Vancouver’s Subplot Design designed the issue using archival photographs.

In 1971, Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) issued a six-cent stamp (Scott #533) celebrating insulin’s isolation. In 2000, Canada Post also issued a 46-cent stamp (SC #533) commemorating Banting, a Nobel Prize laureate, as part of its 68-stamp Millennium Collection.


While a Juno Awards stamp was released today and the insulin stamp is coming on April 15, another two issues are still on the dock this month.

Canada Post will also issue an Eid stamp on April 22 plus the long-awaited “Canadian Ballet Legends” set – postponed since last year due to COVID-19 – on April 29.

With no new issues planned for May, Canada Post will then release a commemorative envelope celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada on June 7 plus a stamp marking the Bluenose centennial on June 29.

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