Press and Journal
October 12, 2023

World’s first monument honouring Aberdeen’s ‘insulin pioneer’ unveiled at Duthie Park

The memorial stands in tribute to John J.R. Macleod who co-discovered insulin in 1922.

The statue of John J.R. Macleod was unveiled at Duthie Park on Thursday. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

The world’s first monument honouring the life of Aberdeen’s little-known physiologist John J.R. Macleod has been unveiled at Duthie Park.

The life-size bronze and granite statue now takes pride of place within a newly expanded area of the park known as Macleod’s Corner.

Described as the “insulin pioneer”, Professor Macleod co-discovered the hormone in 1922 and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology the following year.

The statue is dedicated to John J.R. Macleod who co-discovered insulin. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

The unveiling of the memorial on Thursday celebrates the 100th anniversary of his prize – as well as the life and legacy of the medical hero.

The physiologist moved to the Granite City at age seven and attended Aberdeen Grammar School before studying medicine at Marischal College.

He went on to research diabetes in Canada which led to the discovery of Insulin – the most successful treatment for diabetes.

Macleod’s Corner in Duthie Park. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

John Macleod remembered at Duthie Park

To immortalise his work, John Otto founded the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society with Kimberlie Hamilton and steered the project from concept to completion.

Kimberlie Hamilton and John Otto with the statue. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

He said: “As someone who has been dependent on daily injections of insulin for the past 50 years, it has been a surreal but gratifying experience to watch this long-held dream become a reality.

“I feel a deep sense of gratitude to JJR Macleod for giving me life, along with millions of others with type one diabetes around the world.”

Ayrshire sculptor John McKenna has spent more than a year using the centuries-old “lost wax” casting process to bring the statue to life.

The Press and Journal features on the monument. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

He used formal images and family photos to achieve the statue’s striking resemblance, which sits upon a Royal Parks bench and features a Press and Journal newspaper with a headline referring to his Nobel Prize.

The memorial includes a terrace made of reclaimed granite, donated by Aberdeen City Council, where all the sponsors’ names have been engraved, as well as two replica Victorian-era benches and a landscaped path leading to the site, named “World Insulin Way”.

“From all who owe their lives to insulin”. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

First ‘storytelling statue’ in Scotland

The memorial is Scotland’s first and only “storytelling statue” so visitors can scan a QR code to hear the figure speak and watch a short documentary.

Professor Macleod’s family members were among a crowd of 300 guests in attendance at the Duthie Park event where the ceremonial ribbon was cut by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, David Cameron.

Visitors can scan the QR code and hear John Macleod talk. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

They were joined by academics, members of Clan Macleod, pupils from Aberdeen Grammar, Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire Sandy Manson and Britain’s only surviving Victoria Cross recipient, John Cruickshank.

Aberdeen piper Ian Dallas and the Granite City Pipes & Drums also performed an original tune composed especially for the event, “Macleod’s Theme”.