Press and Journal
January 23, 2023

World Insulin Day launched to ensure Aberdeen pioneer is not forgotten

Campaigners claim an Aberdeen doctor’s pioneering work on diabetes treatment is being “airbrushed from history” in favour of his Canadian counterparts


January 23 marks 101 years since the first successful dose of insulin was given to a patient. But, even thoughJohn Macleod shared the Nobel Prize for his efforts, it’s claimed his contributions are often overlooked.

And it’s hoped a move to mark the anniversary with a global day of recognition could right this “injustice”.

Aberdeen man’s involvement with insulin breakthrough

Macleod was born near Dunkeld, but moved north and studied atAberdeen Grammar and the city’s university.

After time developing his career in London, Leipzig and Ohio, he found his way to Toronto.

At that point, people with what is now known as Type 1 diabetes typically only survived a few months after diagnosis.

Professor J.J.R Macleod

Macleod started advising inexperienced doctor Frederick Banting and summer student Charles Best, who had come to him with an idea about treatment.

But the pair clashed as Banting took Macleod’s warnings about the accuracy of his research as rejections.

On January 11, Banting administered the first human trial of insulin, but this failed.

It wasn’t until January 23 that a second attempt by biochemistry professor James Collip, using a method suggested by Macleod instead, was successful.

All of the patient’s symptoms disappeared, and he lived another 13years before dying of pneumonia.

World Insulin Day to ‘set the record straight’

Macleod and Banting shared the 1923 Nobel Prize for Medicine orPhysiology as a result of their findings.

But the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society says the Scot has become “almost entirely overlooked” with the history books favouring theCanadians.

This includes the fact that world diabetes day takes place eachNovember 14 – Banting’s birthday.

John Otto, founder and Chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society

John Otto, the group’s founder and chairman, explained: “The fact that Macleod continues to be airbrushed from history is a source of great frustration to anyone who knows the genuine story of the discovery of insulin.

“It’s equally frustrating that January 11 is often cited as the date of the first successful use of insulin, when in truth it was the 23rd of the month.

“An awareness day marking the date of the true Toronto breakthrough – credited to the combined efforts of Banting, Best, Collip and most of all Macleod – is long overdue.”

The group is hopeful that World Insulin Day, to be held everyJanuary 23, will “set the record straight” about the medical breakthrough.

Later this year the 100th anniversary of Macleod’s Nobel Prize will be celebrated in Aberdeen with the unveiling of a bronze and granite memorial in Duthie Park.