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Overall, the book is well written, readable, and fair in its discussion of controversial topics and apparently contradictory results. It presents a useful overview of platelet function before emphasizing therapy with the antiplatelet drugs. It will be particularly helpful to those who have concentrated on a few aspects of platelet function and want to integrate their knowledge into a broader picture, as well as to those who are unfamiliar widi the rationale behind the use of "antiplatelet " drugs in this wide variety of clinical conditions. Marian A. Packham Department ofBiochemistry, University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8 The Ducovery ofInsulin. By Michael Bliss. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. Pp. 304. $20.00. To someone who grew up on the romanticism of important biomedical discoveries as related by Paul DeKruif, Bliss's narration of the discovery of insulin is disappointing. The drama of the discovery of insulin has the potential for making "Microbe Hunters" and "Hunger Fighters" ordinary discoverers—by comparison . But Bliss is not DeKruif, and perhaps the passage of 50 years has resulted in a change in the attitude of the general public which would now find the depiction of a scientist as a hero unrealistic. Michael Bliss is a professional historian at the University of Toronto who devoted a sabbatical to this attempt to "come to terms with the discovery of insulin." In this he has succeeded. He has made full use of the archives of the University of Toronto, the Nobel Committee, and interviews with surviving relatives of the principals and living senior endocrinologists who were acquainted with the persons involved and could also provide him with a sound scientific perspective. His scholarship is impeccable. It is difficult to imagine that any significant facts available at this date were not included. The story begins with how Banting, a struggling surgeon in London, Ontario, developed the idea that the internal secretion of the pancreas might be extractable if one were to tie off the pancreatic ducts, thus eliminating the potentially destructive influence of the pancreatic digestive enzymes. The fact that this practicing surgeon, who had never carried out any original research or shown any interest in an investigative career, should come up with the idea is strong evidence that in 1920 a number of physiologic and biochemical investigators were approaching the discovery ofthe internal secretion ofthe pancreas. What is important, however, is that Scott, Murlin, Paulesco, and others did not have the drive, the obsession, and the luck of Banting. One of the principal purposes of Bliss's historical investigation seems to have been answering the question whether history properly assigned credit for the great discovery to the Toronto group, and then which of the Toronto group should have received the Nobel Prize. To this reviewer, and probably to Bliss, the Nobel Committee decision was correct. Although Best eventually became a very distinguished scientist in his own right, he was a student doing assigned (but important) work. Collip's de316 Book Reviews velopments of the technique for improving the concentration of the insulin extract was invaluable but was probably regarded by the Nobel Committee as a technological refinement. Perhaps this was an unjust decision. Macleod was die guiding professor. Although the original idea was not his, he contributed important guidance and was, in fact, die only scholar in the entire group who knew a great deal about carbohydrate metabolism. The many details of the intense work and the working relations of the foursome—Banting, Best, Collip and Macleod—during 1921 and 1922 uncovered the fact that, in terms of certain personal qualities, our heroes did indeed have clay feet. Apparently the rivalries for credit became bitter and, in retrospect, since there was enough honor to be passed around, inexcusable. Banting was jealous of his own great ideas and accomplishment and wanted credit for this. His driving zeal apparently annoyed some ofthe others. After all, he was not a sophisticated scientist. Perhaps Bliss decided that the description of the quibbling and arguing of the principal participants made diem real people; to this reviewer, much of this was uninteresting. One thing was clear and admirable . There was no rivalry for financial gain; none was sought, and there was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 316-317
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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