Banting and Best

Perhaps it’s a long time coming but it’s here.

For a long time, I’ve been a big fan of the Historica Canada web resource and what it provides for educators.

In particular, the Historica Minutes which I’m sure we’ve all seen on television given a quick glimpse to a topic with the purpose of encouraging further research on the topic.

Just this week, this new Minute was released telling part of the story of Banting and Best and their discovery of Insulin.

You check out the video here and then look for more on YouTube or the Historica website.






2 responses to “Banting and Best”

  1. Andrew Forgrave Avatar
    Andrew Forgrave

    .Good morning Doug!

    It’s been 30+ years now, but among the many fond memories I have from my time working at the Ontario Science Centre is the one created by climbing the old-timey reproduction staircase in the Hall of Life to the Banting and Best lab. Contrary to the typical dynamic and interactive exhibits that the science centre is primarily known for, this exhibit fell more into the traditional museum category of preserving a piece of history. There would have been buttons to activate a recorded narration in English and French, and maybe push buttons that turned on lights to highlight different parts of the old-timey equipment, but the exhibit made up for it’s less dynamic nature by the fact that it recreated the older, dimmer environment from a place and time in the history of UofT/Toronto/Canada that has had such a profound impact on the lives of so many. The Physical design of the exhibit with the staircase and the lighting worked very well to create a “stepping back into a moment of time” experience – – and thus solidifying the memory.

    Another impactful “piece of history” exhibit in the Hall of Life was the actual transmission electron microscope (TEM) created by Prebus and Hillier at UofT in the 1930s. Rather than seeing the details in a tiny slice of material using visible light, this microscope enabled seeing of much smaller/greater detail through the use of a beam of electrons. It could be quite inspiring to take a moment and connect with the actual item that was hand built by those scientists. Just looking at it, you could tell that it was one of a kind and built from scratch. Pretty amazing. The exhibit was located just outside the microscopy lab where visitors could slow down and explore a range of specimens using light microscopes (kids really liked looking at the bee and the Astroturf) as well as seeing a demonstration of a modern scanning electron microscope (SEM) which gave a 3D image by bouncing the electrons off of a thin metal coating that had been applied to the specimen. Eye opening!

    I can’t leave the Hall of Life without mentioning my most favourite exhibit in the whole building, the elephant heart. Sure, the Science Arcade had the Van de Graaff generator to make your hair stand up on end, and the Hall of Space had an actual CanadaArm from the shuttle, and the very quiet Hall of the Atom had the most amazing cloud chamber that would let you see the paths of cosmic rays as they arrived through the atmosphere, penetrated the roof and floor above, instantaneously passed through the chilled air before continuing on downwards into the earth below ( a few centimetres over and they would have missed the cloud chamber and rather joined the ones that were passing through you…)— but the Hall of life had the elephant’s heart.

    Like the Banting and Best lab, or the TEM, there was no physical interaction offered by the elephant heart exhibit. It had a push button that activated a light that shone from above, so kids would rush up and push the button to get a brief glimpse before running off to the next exhibit. The true interaction with the exhibit came when you paused and looked at the thing, and marvelled at the scale and design and function offered by the opportunity. It was an elephants heart, preserved in formaldehyde, and suspended in a large plexiglass cylinder so that you could view it from any and all sides. There was a cutaway section that allowed you to see the finer details of how the muscle was built — one could imagine that parts of it were built with elastic bands, except for the fact that the thing wasn’t built, but was recovered from an elephant after the heart had served its first purpose. Had there been a way to reanimate the heart, I would’ve loved to have brought in some hoses from a fire truck and connected them on to the 6” (15 cm) veins/arteries and fired the thing up to demonstrate nature’s power. It was one of my favourite places to hang out and share the wonders of life and science with visitors.

    I guess once the pandemic is done, it will be again time for a little pilgrimage. I remember visiting the science centre as a kid, and then I remember working there when it turned 20. I remember arranging a visit for our Physics class while doing my B.Ed, and then a good number of school visits over the years for students. OSC celebrated 50th anniversary a few couple years back, so I guess it’s time to check in.


  2. My Week Ending 2021-05-23 – doug — off the record Avatar

    […] Wednesday – Banting and Best […]


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