• Cindy Zampa


Legacy of Sir Frederick Grant Banting

Banting is probably best remembered for being the Canadian scientist who, in 1921, co-discovered and isolated insulin, thus revolutionizing the treatment of diabetes. He turned down large sums of money from various pharmaceutical companies for the patent to insulin, choosing instead to sell it to the University of Toronto for $1. He said that insulin is his gift to mankind and wanted to make it available to everyone who needed it rather than turn it into a commodity for anyone's profit. His legacy certainly lives on today, not only because of his role in harnessing the therapeutic effects of insulin, but also because of his decision to gift it to the world.

But did you know Banting was also an artist who painted and sketched as a hobby? He became close friends with Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, members of the Group of Seven, sharing an appreciation of the rugged Canadian landscape with these artists. He accompanied them on many sketching and painting trips to remote places, seeking respite from his fame and scientific work. At times, he'd use the alias of Frederick Grant to sign his art, cultivating a life in art that was separate from his notoriety and medical career.

Banting once told Jackson that when he was fifty he intended to leave research to the young scientists and pursue painting full-time. Sadly, Banting died at the age of 49, from injuries sustained in an airplane crash in Newfoundland. Working for the Medical Corps, he was flying to London to demonstrate a flight suit he helped design that would prevent pilots from passing out at high altitudes.

Personally, his legacy as an artist inspires me to fully engage in creative pursuits NOW, and not wait for the perfect opportunities or timing. I just need to do it!

The reference photo I used to paint LEGACY 29 is from one of the trips Banting and Jackson took, in 1927, aboard the S.S. Beothic, a Canadian Government supply ship travelling through the Arctic to re-supply RCMP outposts. The picture was a gift of Mrs. Nancy Hardy-Banting, to the Banting House National Historic Site of Canada.

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