By Alison Li
J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada
Part of the McGill-Queen’s/Associated Medical Services Studies in the History of Medicine, Health, and Society (number 18 in series)
256 Pages, 6 x 9, 10 illustrations, ISBN 9780773526099. October 2003, Formats: Cloth, eBook
…a sensitive re-creation of the life of this man best known for his role in the isolation of insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921…To all historians of twentieth-century life science, and particularly those concerned with the changing roles of universities, the private sector, and government during the rise of “big science,” this book will be a welcome contribution.
Nicholas Rasmussen in ISIS: A Journal of the History of Science Society
In the early years of the twentieth century medical research in Canada was the job of a select few. By mid-century it had grown into a systematic, large-scale venture that involved teams of professional scientists and dozens of laboratories in universities, government, and industry. J.B. Collip – skilled both as a bench scientist and an entrepreneur – played a leading role in this transformation. In J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada Alison Li details how Collip leapt into prominence in 1921-22 as part of the team at the University of Toronto that isolated insulin. When the Nobel Prize was awarded to Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod in 1923, Banting announced he was sharing his award with Charles Best; Macleod in turn announced he was sharing his award with Collip.
Collip was known for his remarkable skills in making hormone extracts, many of which proved to have therapeutic, and therefore commercial, value. At McGill University in the 1930s he headed a thriving research group that carried out investigations of the pituitary and sex hormones, including development of one of the first orally active estrogen products. Collip’s story sheds light on early negotiations between academic science and the pharmaceutical industry and on the complexities of sustaining a research laboratory before the rise of government funding. As the head of the National Research Council’s medical research division during its formative years, Collip helped shape the foundations of organized support for medical research in Canada.
A pleasure to read. Li goes beyond biographical anecdotes and offers a significant contribution to medical research in Canada, and fills an egregious gap in historiographical scholarship. In retracing Collip’s career, she aptly demonstrates that he contributed not only to the training of his first medical science researchers and to the development of laboratory research, but also actively participated in the institutionalizing process of scientific research in Canada.”
Denis Goulet, Département des sciences humaines, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.