The autobiography non-fiction book that I am reading about Dr. Frederick Banting is titled, Breakthrough: Banting, Best, and the Race to Save Millions of Diabetics by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg.  I am currently ⅔ finished and around my book!


“Which one should I have left, sir?”

This quote seems fairly unimportant at first glance, but once I read the background behind the quote, I immediately knew that it would be on this list. This took place in one of the earlier days of Banting’s life, during his service as an army medic in World War II. Banting was operating at one of the dressing stations in Lilac Farm, when the Germans were firing furiously at, well, at about anything. Banting had been hit himself in the arm and protested heavily when his commander told him to take the stretcher ambulance. Despite his orders, when the commander relocated to another dressing station for a brief time, he had to help the incoming stream of the injured asking himself, “Is this the face I am going to walk away from?,”. The answer was always no. Seventeen hours later when the commander returned, Banting was standing exactly where he left him. When he glared at Banting, Banting looked back without fear or malice and asked, “Which one should I have left, sir?” Banting’s dedication to his fellow officers is both admirable and stubborn, almost to the point of ignorance. Although his refusal to have his wound treated right away almost got his arm amputated, it also won him the Military Cross. Although Banting looks foolish for his impulsive actions several more times in the book, it just may be this stubborn character that eventually finds him the treatment for diabetes.

This quote shows the values of Canadians in times of need; leadership, innovation, resilience, and teamwork are only a prominent few among many. All this stems from that fact that Canadians feel a sense of duty to protect what they own, and the hardships shifted our values so that many civic nations bound together in a national crisis. As a nation, many volunteered and raised up to fight for their own country during the World Wars. We have a great sense of pride in being Canadians, and Banting showed us that despite his injuries, he was willing to stay and treat more injured people. This can also be connected to modern values of our time. Canadians often project the image of ‘peacekeepers’, which can be seen as both a positive and negative light. Canadian identity is a bit wishy washy; we have many common values, but no collective national interests to protect, which is why other countries view us as separate nations in one country. However, despite this, Canadians aren’t afraid to serve their country, and defend their own when it really gets down to it.


“He [Banting] had gone from being a country farm boy to being a medical student to being a decorated officer in the Canadian army and now he found himself unemployed and in debt, casting about for direction, plagued by resentments about the past, and paralyzed with fear about the future.”

I found this quote particularly interesting because in such a short time frame, you can really see how Banting progresses. If you compare this to a chart, I would imagine that it would look like an up, down, up down. Back in this era, it was hard for country farm boys to become medical students, and similar to modern day situations, it costed hard work and a lot of money. Banting himself only managed to attend medical school in UT due to his father’s graduating gift of $1,500. When he finally completed his courses, the country was at war, and he volunteered to serve in the army. After going through all sorts of trouble there, he became a decorated officer, only to come home and realize that he had no idea what to do next. I think Banting’s experience can resonate with many people because it shows that humans are creatures of habit, and when this habit is broken, we are often at lost for what to do. The determining point is how you adjust to this situation, and whether you have enough mind strength to push past personal doubts, find your identity, and recognize your presence in the community.

This says a lot about the values of the Canadian government and how they treated veterans in the past. Back then, veterans were honoured; the city held annual parades and built war memorials, but did not honour what the soldiers really wanted. JOBS. The aftermaths of the war were shocking and many soldiers who had survived the war couldn’t get back on their feet. They often felt lost in sense of direction of their life, could not find jobs to financially stabilize themselves, and many had post traumatic stress disorder from the war. Some even turned to alcohol and drug substance users to mitigate their stress in other ways. Banting was one of the people who went from being a highly respected officer, to a mere person with income rages of 4 dollars a day. Despite fighting so hard for Canada, Banting, and many others, were cast from the country when they needed the help back. Even today, many veterans are still not getting the proper acknowledgment that is due from the government. This quote allowed me to reflect on how much the veterans did for us, and how we could be improving their lives with sufficient funding and well managed senior homes.


“Diabetus [sic] Ligate pancreatic ducts of dog. Keep dog alive till acini degenerate leave Islets. Try to isolate the internal secretion of these to relieve glycosurea [sic].”

This quote is the most prominent two lines in the entire book so far; this would become the starting point of the cure for diabetes. What particularly captured my interest is that he thought of this idea at three in the morning, half awake and with extremely loopy handwriting. The fact that this single-handedly inspired him to discover a treatment for diabetes is astonishing because it shows how he accomplished such a feat with sheer will power, determination and strength of mind. Second of all, this also shows how progressive and smart Banting must have been to think of this kind of idea on his own (although there were similar discoveries in the past, Banting did not know about them). I can connect to Banting because once I have an idea down, I will do whatever I can to make sure it gets implemented or acted upon.

At the time Banting wrote these two lines in his black notebook, he was not aware that his idea was not original. Before Banting was Lydia de Witt who described the same idea as early as 1906 (63). As recent as 1916, in Rome, a physiologist also injected dogs with a pancreatic extract that normalized their blood sugar levels. This shows how Canada was detached to the rest of the world in an international level. Banting was not aware of these discoveries because these publishments had not been translated to English and brought over to Canada at this point. Articles between Canada and other countries were not interchanged smoothly till the later 20th century, and this could have stunted our country’s progress in a great array of genres. This could also have been detrimental to the career of many researchers as credit is often given to the first published successful experiment. Banting always said, “finding the discovery is not as important as publishing the discovery,”. If Canada and other countries are moving on to the post-nationalism stage, I think it is important to keep in mind that if so, scientists could then collectively contribute to cures for diseases such as cancer, at an international level.


“I’m more interested in finding a cure for diabetes than in reading about how others have tried and failed.”

This quote pertains to the conversation between Banting and Macleod when Banting visits his research university and proposes his idea to cure diabetes. What I found interesting is that from this quote I got two impressions of Banting. First of all, I can tell that he prides himself in being a smart person, almost to the point of arrogance. Macleod told him that many other researchers have tried similar methods, and although Banting did not know this information prior to their meeting, even after he found out, he thinks himself at a higher level then the previous researchers stating that he does not want to read the works of failed research experiments. Another impression of Banting is more positive; he knows that other people have failed, but it does not keep him doubting himself and his determination perseveres to continue searching for a cure for diabetes.

Ideas in the field of science in the early 20th century were not as advanced as that of modern day society. At this time, people valued researchers who discovered big ideas, and many scientists worked their entire lives to find little pieces of information, or mere clues that would confirm their theory. Although this is still the case in modern times, science has changed. In school we are only taught what is already known, and in most cases, aren’t given ample chances to think and connect pieces of information on our own. Science is the art of logic; many in our time believe that there is no imagining behind what is right and wrong, but if this was the case of many researchers before us, science would not have advanced. I think that Canadian values have shifted to limit ourselves to what we know and do not know, and in the case of science, this could be detrimental to our country’s progress.


“It was as if the dogs knew the importance of the work and willingly participated.”

This quote quipped my interest because Banting’s use of dogs for his experiments were morbid and terrifying. For each of Banting’s experiment, he used two dogs. One would be the donor, who would be ligated and sacrificed to supply to pancreatic extract for the second, depancreatized dog who would be the recipient. (87) Banting and his assistant Best, experimented on at least a hundred on dogs to finally see results. Going back to that issue about animals and their role in our life, this seems like a terrible but honest reflection on the kind of person Banting is, and is very controversy because he is experimenting on hundreds of dogs, to save hundreds of human lives. This changed my impression on Banting in quite the negative way and shows once again that even the most brilliant people can’t escape from mistakes in their life.

This connects to current events as well, specifically, the inquiry question that Melissa and Nicole brought up regarding animal testing. Using two dogs for every experiment, and having many experiment failed with the only result of a dead dog, needless to say, Banting and Best went through hundreds of dogs. Although some were found on the street, I think that this goes back to the conversation that many societies don’t value animals in a human’s life. The experiments were not well handled either, many of the dogs died from starvation as Banting had to minimize sugar levels, and this kind of lab setting is unseen in our time. That being said, it shows that the Canadian society has progressed enough so that this kind of lab setting cannot be administered. In modern values, we are working towards appreciating animals, only taking what’s needed and making sure experiment are approved for safe animal care.



If one works hard enough at being persistent, eventually it will create opportunities for success.  

Banting on numerous occasions, demonstrated that he was a persistent individual. For example, when others told him that he could not survive in medical school due to his lack of background in his early years, persistence allowed him to graduate and serve in the Canadian military. He was persistent in continuing medicine, so when medicals advised him to amputate his arm after he was shot by a gun, he refused and eventually gained back the use of his arm. Even when Macleod was hesitant about granting Banting the lab to carry out his research on pancreatic extracts, he fought back with hard rebuttals because he was persistent in making his experiment a success. Although persistent can sometimes be seen as foolish, it created opportunities for Banting to work with others in the same work of field, and eventually lead to Banting’s discovery of the treatment of diabetes. I can connect to Banting in many different ways because we are both people who attain the mindset that enough effort will eventually lead to success. Furthermore, like Banting, I had the desire to pursuit a career in medicine from a very young age. Since medical school is something that requires a lot of persistence, reading about Banting allowed me to understand that if I want to survive through medical school, I need to be more persistent in taking charge of my own learning and to direct my path to where I want to go.