Diabetes has been known to exist since ancient times; the first recorded mention of a disorder with its characteristics was in 1552 BC. Today's diabetics are able to live with the disease, but that wasn't always the case. Until the 20th century, diabetes was a death sentence. Life could be prolonged for a few years through diet and exercise, but ultimately nothing could be done.
In 1920, Dr. Frederick Banting, who lived in London, Ontario at the time, became interested in the relationship between the pancreas and diabetes. He brought his ideas to Professor John Macleod at the University of Toronto. Over the next few years, he worked with Charles Best and Dr. James Collip, which led to the discovery and refinement of insulin. The first human patient to be treated was a 14 year old boy, who received insulin at the beginning of 1922, and by October 1923 insulin was made widely available. Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1923 for their miraculous treatment, which for the first time allowed diabetics to live a normal life.
News of the discovery spread quickly. In October 1922, before the widespread availability of insulin, Archbishop McNeil received a letter from Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia. He appealed to Archbishop McNeil to use his influence to persuade Banting to send a supply of insulin for his auxiliary bishop, Rev. M.J. Crane, who was quite ill:
Our counterparts in Philadelphia were generous enough to send us Archbishop McNeil's reply:
Cardinal Dougherty's Reply:
The story has an uplifting ending. Our Philadelphian counterparts also sent us Bishop Crane's update to Cardinal Dougherty:
Because of the intercession of Cardinal Dougherty and Archbishop McNeil, Bishop Crane was among the first patients to receive the landmark treatment. It has been almost 100 years and insulin, which was discovered here in our city, has saved the lives of millions of people around the world.