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History of Medicine |

The Discovery of Insulin: The Rochester, New York, Connection

Ralph Madeb, MD; Leonidas G. Koniaris, MD; and Seymour I. Schwartz, MD
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From the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank Professor Michael Bliss of the University of Toronto for his generous and unselfish donation of letters from the Havens and Williams families, which he acquired during his research for 2 of his books (1, 2). Copies of these materials have been donated by Dr. Bliss to the Edward G. Miner Library of the University of Rochester Medical Center and have been cataloged and included in the history of medicine archives. The authors also thank Alan Illig and Grant Holcomb III for their help in attaining valuable resources for the paper.

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.

Requests for Single Reprints: Ralph Madeb, MD, Department of Urology, University of Rochester School of Medicine, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 656, Rochester, NY 14642; e-mail, ralph_madeb@urmc.rochester.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Madeb, Koniaris, and Schwartz: University of Rochester School of Medicine, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642.

Ann Intern Med. 2005;143(12):907-912. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-143-12-200512200-00009
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The discovery of insulin in Toronto by Dr. Frederick G. Banting and colleagues has been well chronicled. The story of how insulin therapy was introduced into the United States has been less detailed. The first patient to be treated with insulin in the United States resided in Rochester, New York, a city with a then newly developed medical school that had also tried to recruit Dr. Banting. A series of letters from that period provides a description of the course of a juvenile patient with diabetes before and after the use of insulin as a therapeutic agent.


Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1.
James Dexter Havens.

As a teenager with diabetes mellitus (left) and as a highly notable artist and master of the woodcut in his later years (right).

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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2.
John Ralston Williams in his later years (left) and chalk drawing of Fredrick Banting (right).

The chalk drawing of Dr. Banting was sketched by Dr. Williams on the cover of The Bulletin in 1946(3).

Grahic Jump Location
Grahic Jump Location
Figure 3.
James S. Havens in his later years.

Lawyer, congressman, legal counselor for Mr. George Eastman of the Eastman Kodak Company, and a loyal and caring father to a son who was gravely ill from diabetes mellitus.

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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 4.
Woodcut entitled “Blackberries” by James Dexter Havens.

Exhibited in the Memorial Art Gallery of the Rochester Museum.

Grahic Jump Location




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