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Michael Bliss, Historian Who Dispelled Myths of Insulin’s Discovery, Dies at 76

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Michael Bliss, Insulin



Michael Bliss, a distinguished Canadian historian whose unraveling of the story behind the discovery of insulin overturned the widely accepted telling of it and brought international attention to his work, died on May 18 in Toronto. He was 76.

His daughter Sally Bliss said the cause was complications of vasculitis, an inflammatory blood vessel disease.

Professor Bliss was already well established as a historian of Canadian business and politics when he turned his attention to the discovery of insulin, the hormone that transformed diabetes from an effective death sentence into a manageable condition. He called the discovery “something like salvation,” particularly for children with diabetes.

The discovery was made in 1921 by a somewhat improbable research team at the University of Toronto, against a backdrop of internal feuding that only intensified after the Nobel Prize was awarded two years later to just two of the four principal researchers. 

Professor Bliss, who taught at the university from 1968 to 2006, published “The Discovery of Insulin” in 1982. His account upset the commonly held wisdom that the discovery had mainly been the work of two inexperienced researchers from the countryside: Dr. Frederick Banting, a surgeon, and Charles Best, a recent college graduate who had yet to enter medical school. ...

Read entire article at NYT


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