Peter Robertson vs. Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best

Just one more week to go before the champion is crowned


Peter Robertson

Why he’s famous: He’s the inventor of the Robertson screwdriver—you know, the square-shaped one in your toolbox.

Why he deserves to win: Before Robertson’s invention in 1908, we were stuck with the slip-prone flat bladed driver and slotted-head screw, a combo notorious for causing injuries. Later, when the cross-shaped Phillips screw and driver were invented, Consumer Reports magazine declared the Robertson superior because Phillips’ screws are easily stripped and degrade with wear. As writer Witold Rybcynski put it, “no matter how old, rusty, or painted over, a Robertson screw can always be unscrewed. [It’s] the biggest little invention of the 20th century.”

Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best

Why they’re famous: Along with Best, a medical student he’d hired, Banting isolated insulin as the hormone which regulates the body’s blood sugar levels.

Why they deserve to win: After reading a paper that suggested diabetes may be caused by a lack of a hormone secreted by islets in the back of the pancreas, he devised a way to isolate the islets by tying off most of the pancreas with ligatures. In 1921, Frederick Banting hired Charles Best and the two removed a dog’s pancreas, which caused blood sugar levels to rise (mimicking diabetics) before injecting the islets back into the dog. The animal lived for several more months, proving they had isolated the blood-sugar regulating hormone insulin. By 1922, the pair were bringing comatose diabetics in Toronto back to life. Diabetics worldwide have lived more normal lives ever since.

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Peter Robertson vs. Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best

  1. both are great, too bad there isn't categories….let's face it saving a life wins everytime.

    • I would argue that the telephone has indirectly saved far more lives than insulin (not only through emergency numbers like 9/11, but improved communications everywhere as well).

      But Alexander Graham Bell lost to Banting and Best anyway.

  2. I agree with you – categories would be a good idea.

  3. I am speechless , other than saying Drs. Banting and Best keep on getting my vote .

  4. They were lined up all screwy. Bell should have been in the finals as well.

    • Yes, I agree. Bell's invention revolutionized society, and its effects are clearly in evidence all over the world. People's basic need to communicate was met.

  5. Banting and Best were in fact not the first to discover the insulin … they drew their inspiration from already published articles in the specialty press of the time ( see “Recherches sur le rôle du pancréas dans l'assimilation nutritive” published by Romanian doctor Nicolae Paulescu in Belgium 8 months before the announcement of the Banting / Bates discovery). See also… for details of the controversy of that time

    • I have to disagree with your statement Banting and Best were not first to discover insulin. Others had determined the pancreas held the clue though no one had ever isolated insulin as the hormone to regulate blood sugars. No one else ever produced insulin or determined how to produce it to save lives.

      The controversy was that Best was never nominated for the Nobel prize where as McLeod received it but never actually did any of the work at all, he was in Scotland at the time on vacation.

      The World Diabetes Association credits Banting and Best with the discovery of insulin. Your idea of changing history doesn't hold water.

      • McLeod was not onboard with Banting. He gave Banting one of the worst facilities, at the University. He deserved nothing, but, as the lab was, technically, under him, he was included in the award.

  6. One part of the story, that is rarely told, is that Banting never received his Nobel prize. He refused to accept it because Best was not included. Now, that is integrity!. His widow accepted the prize, after the Nobel committee decided to include Best.