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

“This book is the definitive history of the discovery of insulin and readers will be captivated by the determination, exasperation, suffering, and ultimate resurrection of individuals. 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.


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

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

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

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

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
Unveiling of monument at Dr. Collip Courtyard and Reflection Garden – October 16, 2021

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

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

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