New stamp marks 100th anniversary of insulin’s discovery

Canada Post issued a stamp today to mark the centennial of insulin’s discovery, one of the world’s most important medical breakthroughs.

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, Frederick 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.

Under Macleod’s oversight, Banting and Best used a pancreatic extract to successfully reduce blood sugar levels in a dog. With Collip’s help, the team refined the extract now known as insulin before testing it on humans in 1922 and then putting it into mass production.

By the end of 1923, insulin became widely available, and Banting and Macleod were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work. They chose to share the prize money with Best and Collip.

Before insulin’s discovery, a diabetes diagnosis was considered a death sentence. The only way to treat the disease was through an extremely restricted diet that only briefly extended a person’s life.

A century later, millions of people with the disease continue to be treated with life-saving insulin.

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

THE STAMP

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.

The stamp was unveiled yesterday by Banting House curator Grant Maltman, who also recounted Banting’s discovery at the University of Toronto’s “Insulin100” event.

A full feature will be published in CSN Vol. 46 #2.

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.

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