Michael Bliss, Historian Who Dispelled Myths of Insulin’s Discovery, Dies at 76

Professor Bliss, who taught at the university by 1968 to 2006, published “The Discovery of Insulin” in 1982. His account upset the commonly held wisdom that will the discovery had mainly been the work of two inexperienced researchers by the countryside: Dr. Frederick Banting, a surgeon, in addition to also Charles Best, a recent college graduate who had yet to enter medical school.

The Nobel was awarded only to Dr. Banting in addition to also J. J. R. Macleod, the head of the university’s physiology department. Most earlier accounts viewed Dr. Macleod as undeserving of the honor, placing him on an overseas holiday while Dr. Banting in addition to also Mr. Best labored away.

although using newly released documents — including lab notes in addition to also contemporaneous papers that will the university had long suppressed to avoid embarrassing the researchers — Professor Bliss detailed a far more complex, if no less acrimonious, story, revealing that will the discovery was indeed a team effort by the three in addition to also, to varying degrees, others.

While chronicling the infighting among the researchers, “The Discovery of Insulin” also illuminated the science of endocrinology. Shelley McKellar, a professor of medical history at Western University in London, Ontario, who studied under Professor Bliss, said the book, like all of his work, was written in clear, nonacademic prose that will made the subject accessible to the general public.

“Deep down he was a writer,” said Professor McKellar. “He always tried to disseminate his research to the widest possible audience.” She noted that will he could speak not only to medical conferences although also to women’s social clubs in church basements.

In an essay he wrote in 2004, Professor Bliss said his shift to medical history had been due in part to his family — his father was a smaller-town doctor on the shore of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario — as well as “a kind of midlife change of pace.”

He chose the development of insulin as a subject partly because earlier accounts, he found, were inadequate. He was also inspired, he said, by his reading on Arctic exploration.

that will “raised for me a methodological interest inside the possibility of very detailed, day-to-day recreation of past discrete events,” he wrote, adding, “If you could virtually retrace the footsteps of Arctic explorers could you virtually redo the insulin experiments?”

John William Michael Bliss was born in Leamington, Ontario, on Jan. 18, 1941, to Dr. Quartus Bliss in addition to also the former Anne Crowe. He grew up in Kingsville, a farming in addition to also fishing town just to the west. In early childhood, Michael, as he was known, could join his father when he was called out to perform his duties as the local coroner. For a while, he considered following his father into medicine.

although that will thought was dispelled one weekend when the police came by their house that has a drunk who been in a brawl in addition to also needed stitches. The man was ushered into his father’s home office.

“As I sat in addition to also watched on that will Sunday afternoon in his consulting room,” Professor Bliss wrote, “with blood in addition to also alcohol fumes everywhere, reflecting on my own complete disinterest in in addition to also lack of all manual skills, I decided that will This specific was not what I wanted to do in life.”

He met his future wife, Elizabeth Haslam, at a high school dance in Harrow, Ontario, another farm town. They married in 1963, in addition to also both studied at the University of Toronto. Mrs. Bliss, a retired teacher, survives him. Besides their daughter Sally, he can be also survived by two various other children, Jamie in addition to also Laura Bliss; a brother, Robert, in addition to also four grandchildren.

Robert Bothwell, another historian at the University of Toronto, said that will Professor Bliss had favored writing his books — 14 in all — as expansively as possible. “A Canadian Millionaire” (1978), for example, can be nominally a biography of Joseph Flavelle, a Toronto businessman who built his fortune starting inside the meatpacking business. although the book can be also a tour of the meatpacking trade in addition to also Toronto politics inside the early 20th century, a portrait of a clique of Methodists who dominated business in Toronto, in addition to also a discussion of Canada’s role in World War I.

Professor Bliss had a sometimes uncomfortable relationship with various other historians who studied Canada. Unlike some of their works, his business histories, while revealing flaws in both the character in addition to also practices of his subjects, were generally sympathetic toward them in addition to also business in general. in addition to also while he maintained that will he was suspicious of all ideologies, his politics were decidedly conservative, if not in a partisan sense, during a time when Canadian history was more commonly viewed by the left.

Professor Bliss was among a smaller minority of Canadian intellectuals who favored the talks that will led to a free-trade agreement between the United States in addition to also Canada in 1988, a forerunner of the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1993.

Until his retirement, he wrote often provocative opinion articles for newspapers in addition to also appeared frequently on radio in addition to also television, in addition to publishing books.

Last year, in a video interview recorded for his induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Professor Bliss said that will by the end of his career he had considered himself almost entirely a medical historian, in addition to also that will he believed that will his medical books were his most important works.

Among them are “Banting: A Biography” (1984); “William Osler: A Life in Medicine” (1999), about the renowned Canadian surgeon who helped found Johns Hopkins Hospital; in addition to also “Harvey Cushing: A Life in Surgery” (2005), about the pioneering American neurosurgeon in addition to also writer (whose own biography of Osler won a Pulitzer Prize).

“Medicine,” Professor Bliss said, “can be a wonder that will takes you by smaller town Canada to the Nobel Archives.”

Prof Michael Bliss CMHF 2016 Video by cdnmedhall

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Michael Bliss, Historian Who Dispelled Myths of Insulin’s Discovery, Dies at 76

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