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Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle Hardcover – September 14, 2010
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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Cooper and Ainsberg present an inspirational record of how the confluence of just the right people at just the right time in just the right places launched a boon for diabetics the world over. When Elizabeth Hughes Gossett was laid to rest in 1981 at the age of 73, few people knew that, by all rights, she should never have lived long enough to enter high school, much less graduate college, marry, and have children. Fewer still may have known or appreciated that while still a child, she risked what little life she may have had left by participating in a medical experiment that, if successful, would save her own and millions of other lives. A remarkable story, made more so by the efforts of Frederick Banting, who tipped fate in Elizabeth’s favor. Just as the honeybee believes its wings will carry it through the air against all physical odds, Banting believed he could perfect a product—insulin—that would save the lives of diabetics. Bees fly and Banting did, and this account makes worthy reading. --Donna Chavez
“The twentieth century witnessed many medical miracles, but perhaps none was so transformative as the discovery of insulin for the treatment for diabetes. Breakthrough is the fascinating tale of Nobel prize-winning research, of a young girl who should have died as a child but instead lived to see seven grandchildren, and of a drug that turned a death sentence into something more akin to a chronic nuisance. This book is an important read for anyone with diabetes. It is an enjoyable read for those who love mystery and human drama.” ―Kenneth T. Jackson, Barzun Professor of History, Columbia University
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And he was right...a young and brash man had an idea. Frederick Banting was a physician, not originally a researcher. But he took his idea to physiologist J J R Macleod. What happened after that was a comedy of errors as only a bunch of egotistical researchers could dream up. It was very interesting to read again of how men would connive against one another, and try to one-up one another to make a claim of finding a much-searched for cure that was killing so many people. Macleod had almost nothing to do with the research...he did no active work on it. But his name ended up on the papers because he was the boss, and he received credit for something he didn't do, which makes me so mad. Banting almost didn't get credit, and some of the other men who were actively involved in the work ended up not getting credit for what they did.
For the most part, the book was good. But as other reviewers have said...making up possible conversations that may have happened was not the way to go. This method was used to hook the reader, but it makes the book less of a history when used this way.
The book does not go deep into the science of insulin. I will have to find another book for that. But I enjoyed this story because it showed the human side of suffering in Diabetes which drove the research.
It's too bad Elizabeth was so secretive about her diabetes. As a T1D that was diagnosed in the early 80's I was always hearing stories about how short the life span for a lot of T1Ds is. She lives to be 74 and was on insulin for over 60 years and this was before all the breakthroughs we have today and from being on a starvation diet for a couple years. She could have really given a lot of hope to diabetics.
They do need to update the ending and talk about some of the other insulins available.
I was a little disappointed to read how much of the story was "imagined" when I got to the end of the book, but it was still a good story.
Medicine is science with a very human side. And what could be more thrilling than the tale of the race to unlock the secret of converting dying and starving children into healthy cheerful youngsters. The story of the inspirations, the adademic intrigues, the moments of hope and despair and discovery are all told in a masterful way by Ms Hughes in this historical novel. It's truly worth reading.
Some years ago I was privileged to meet Teddy Ryder, one of subjects described in the book whose life was saved. He was in his 70's, 50 years on insulin and still going strong. It's nice to read a true story with a happy ending.