Essays & Talks

Recent publications

Harry Benjamin and the birth of transgender medicine,” in Canadian Medical Association Journal, December 11, 2023, 195 (48) E1665-E1667.

JJR Macleod Reconsidered,” guest blog post at UTPJ Blog, 31 October 2023.

The Reminiscences of a One-Hundred-and-One-Year-Old Man,” guest blog post at UNCPress, 29 September 2023.

“Macleod Reconsidered,” Introduction to “J.J.R. Macleod, Reconsidered: Insulin and Beyond,” Canadian Journal of Health History 40, 2 (September, 2023), co-edited by Alison Li, Christopher J. Rutty, and James R. Wright.

With Patrick Walsh, “Remembering Insulin, et al.” History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals 64, 1 (Jan 2022): 104-113. 

Caroline Sophia Brown.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography XVI (1931-40).

“Insulin’s Centenary: Complexity and Collaboration.” The Lancet 398, 10313 (2021): 1796-1797.

Foreword to The Discovery of Insulin: Special Centenary Edition by Michael Bliss, University of Toronto Press, 2021.
– Nominated for a Heritage Toronto Award 2022 in the Book category

“Alison Li’s foreword offers tremendous insight into the writing and impact of The Discovery of Insulin – incredibly valuable and a pleasure to read!”


“Rethinking the ‘discovery’ of insulin.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 193, 42 (2021): e1636-31637.

 “Success Has Many Parents: J. B. Collip’s Role in the Discovery of Insulin.” Defining Moments Canada website, 13 April 2021.


MacLennan Lecture, University of King’s College, Halifax – March 12, 2024
I delivered the 6th MacLennan lecture on “Harry Benjamin, hormones, and the early history of transgender medicine.” Read this lovely blog post by History of Science and Technology student Emma Martel, reflecting on my visit to Halifax.

MacLennan Lecture 2024 – University of King’s College, Halifax

Arts & Letters Club of Toronto – Lit Table – February 20, 2024
“Wondrous Transformations”

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project – January 16, 2024
“Harry Benjamin and the History of Transgender Care”
Virtual event hosted by Ken Lustbaden, with an introduction by Susan Stryker

Western University – Department of History, Research Seminar – October 19, 2023
“From Rejuvenation to Transgender Revolution: Harry Benjamin and the Origins of Gender-Affirming Care”

“Banting, Best and Beyond” Symposium, Toronto – May 3, 2022
“Where credit is due: Collip’s contribution”

My talk was part of a day-long symposium celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin.

Toronto Medical Historical Club – March 25, 2022
“Remembering Insulin, et al” with Patrick M. Walsh

James Bertram Collip Memorial, Belleville, Ontario – October 16, 2021
Unveiling of monument at Dr. Collip Courtyard and Reflection Garden

Honouring Belleville’s Co-discoverer of insulin Dr. James Bertram Collip

I delivered the keynote address at the unveiling of a monument and reflection garden in honour of James Bertram Collip. (My talk is at 37:11 – 57:20.)

Chemical Institute of Canada, IUPAC – August 16, 2021
Symposium: Celebrating 100 years of insulin
“Blood, guts, and glucose analysis: measuring blood-sugar in the insulin discovery”

Alberta Diabetes Institute, Edmonton – June 16, 2021
Celebrating 100 Years of Insulin

ADI 100 Years of Insulin Celebration

My talk “Extracts and Enterprise: J. B. Collip, insulin’s forgotten man” (2:00 – 46:00) was part of a half-day seminar that brought together science and story-telling to celebrate the discovery of insulin.

McGill University Health Centre and McGill University Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Symposium – May 19, 2021
“Extracts and Enterprise: JB Collip and the discovery of insulin”

Department of History Colloquium, Brock University – January 25, 2019
“Glandular enthusiasms and the birth of the transgender revolution: Dr. Harry Benjamin (1885-1986)”

Toronto Medical Historical Club – March 23, 2018
“Wondrous transformations: Harry Benjamin and The Transsexual Phenomenon