Alexander Graham Bell vs. Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best - Macleans.ca

Alexander Graham Bell vs. Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best

In a battle of the innovation heavyweights, insulin goes up against the phone

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Alexander Graham Bell

Why he’s famous: He invented the telephone. Duh.

Why he deserves to win: He also invented the metal detector, created an alphabet for the Mohawk language, contributed significantly to aeronautics, and was a founder of the National Geographic Society. A natural inventor, Bell created his first invention at age 12, a de-husking machine that he used to make his part-time flour-milling job easier. But really, what would the last 135 years be like without phones?

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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