Published: 29-05-2023 12:28 | Updated: 29-05-2023 12:31

The controversial Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin (photo documentary)


This year marks one hundred years since Frederick Banting and John MacLeod were awarded the Nobel prize for the discovery of insulin. The discovery has saved the lives of millions of people with diabetes worldwide, but the price is also one of the most debated. In their photo documentary, Professors Lars Rydén and Jan Lindsten talk about the history of the discovery, the problems associated with the award, and the importance the findings have had for today's treatment of diabetes.

The discovery of insulin was made in the summer of 1921. The first patient was treated in January 1922 and already the following year Banting and MacLeod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The prize is not only the fastest awarded award in a Nobel context, but also one of the most debated. There is no doubt that the discovery of insulin was so significant that it deserved a Nobel Prize, but were there perhaps others who should rightfully have shared the credit?

In connection with the 100th anniversary of the prize, Lars Rydén, professor of cardiology and Jan Lindsten, professor of medical genetics, have created a photo documentary in which they describe the problems associated with this Nobel Prize from today's perspective. Initially, they summarize the development of knowledge about diabetes up to the early 1920s and then examine the evaluation made of the Nobel Prize Activities at Karolinska Institutet. Finally, it looks at recent advances that have been based on the discovery of insulin and that have been of great importance for today's treatment of diabetes.

- I was asked to write an article about the insulin prize for the journal of the International Diabetes Federation and asked Jan Lindsten to join in. We both, and especially Jan, have extensive experience of Nobel Assembly and committee work. We then expanded the article into this photo documentary where we could use many nice illustrations. We would like to thank everyone who has supported and helped us along the way. You can see who they are in the text below the film, says Lars Rydén.

Watch the photo documentary on YouTube:

The Nobel Prize in 1923 for the discovery of Insulin in a 100-year perspective (35:55 min.) 

The authors:

Photo: Private.

Lars Rydén, Professor of Cardiology, has spent many years researching diabetes and myocardial infarction and has built up a large body of knowledge in the field. He was a member of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet for about 20 years.

Photo: Ulf Sirborn (modified).

Jan Lindsten, Professor of Medical Genetics, was Secretary of the Nobel Assembly and Nobel Committee at Karolinska Institutet from 1979 to 1990. He is also the founder and former head of the Clinical Genetic Laboratory, Karolinska University Hospital (KS) 1970-1990; Hospital Director KS 1990-1994; and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet 1996-1998.