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Insulin: Remembering Dr. Charles Best

It's been the elusive cure, one that scientists have felt they've been on the brink of breaking for the past 80 years. But for years, diabetes has remained a treatable but not yet cured disease. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of death by disease in Canada. Banting and Best are Canada's best known connection to diabetes but the Canadian connection continues. Since the historic discovery of insulin, there have been improvements and refinements. The promise of a cure for all, however, remains as yet unfulfilled, leaving many to live highly regimented and uncertain lives.

On March 31, 1978 Dr. Charles Best passes away. He is remembered for his meaningful contributions to science, especially his discovery of insulin. Important developments have since been made in the field of diabetes and scientists say they foresee a cure on the horizon. But all other discoveries have come up short thus far and insulin remains the prime treatment. "Insulin, in short, saved my life," says one appreciative survivor in this CBC Television special.
• Banting and Best sold the patent rights to insulin, which would have made them very rich, to the University of Toronto for one dollar. The scientists wanted their discovery to be widely available and accessible to all diabetics.
• Banting and Best became global celebrities following the announcement of the discovery of insulin. Banting was granted a Life Annuity of $7,500 by the Canadian parliament in 1923 and was knighted in 1934. While not best friends, Banting and Best regarded each other warmly and spoke of each other highly.

• In 1924, Charles Best married Margaret Mahon. They had two sons, Henry and Alex.
• Charles Best pursued graduate school following his work with Banting. He later became a professor of physiology at the University of Toronto and was remembered fondly by his students as a genial and encouraging researcher.

• In 1940 Best was appointed the director of the medical research unit of the Canadian Navy. Following Banting's 1941 death, Best was the natural successor to assume the directorship of the Banting and Best department of medical research at the University of Toronto. He retired in 1965.
• Dr. Alex Best, Charles' son, recalled that his father was thanked by grateful diabetics throughout his life. He recalled how diabetics anonymously paid for his father's hotel bills; in one instance the check was signed "Gratefully, a diabetic."

• Best died on March 31, 1978 at Toronto General Hospital after a blood vessel ruptured in his stomach.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Broadcast Date: March 31, 1978
Guest(s): Charles Best, Jack Herity, Gwen Marshall, Wallace Secombe
Duration: 7:54

Last updated: February 14, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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