Birthday: February 27, 1899
Nationality: American, Canadian
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Pisces
Born Country: Canada
Born in: Pembroke, Ontario
Famous as: Co-discoverer of Insulin
Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Mahon (1900–1988);
children: Charles Alexander Best, Henry Bruce Macleod Best
Died on: March 31, 1978
place of death: Alameda County, California
education: University of Toronto
Charles Herbert Best was an American-Canadian scientist who is remembered as the co-discoverer of insulin, one of the most important milestones in the treatment of diabetes. Although he was part of the research team, he did not receive the Nobel Prize along with his co-researchers because he had not completed his graduation then. Frederick Banting, also credited with the discovery of insulin and Nobel Laureate, was deeply impressed by Best’s efforts in discovering insulin and, to honor these efforts, he shared his Nobel Prize with Best and also praised his efforts in the research. Best was multi-talented with good research skills and amazing athletic skills. He was a professional basketball player and used his remuneration from sports to pay his academic fees. Best had worked as a professor in the University of Toronto and was awarded with eighteen honorary degrees from universities around the world. Learn about the life and achievements of this great academician from this biography.
Childhood And Early Life
Best was born on 27th February 1899 in West Pembroke, Canada. His father, Herbert Huestes Best, was a doctor an Luella Fisher was his mother. Best got admission for the Bachelor of Arts degree course in University of Toronto in 1916 but he interrupted his studies to join the Canadian army. He participated in World War I as part of the 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion of Canadian Army and resumed his studies after the war, rejoining the University of Toronto. In 1921, Best, at the age of 22, graduated in physiology and biochemistry. In the same year, he got an opportunity to work with Frederick Banting in his research to obtain a pancreatic extract of insulin so that it can be used for controlling diabetes mellitus. Though he was part of the research, he did not receive the Nobel Prize in 1923 for Physiology or Medicine along with Banting and J. J. R. Macleod because he had not completed his medical degree then. However, Banting voluntarily shared his portion of the prize with Best as an honor to his contribution to the research. Best had some personal interest in finding an effective treatment for diabetes for his aunt had died from diabetes in 1918. Best also discovered the vitamin ‘choline’ and the enzyme ‘histaminase’ and was one of the first to introduce anticoagulants to treat thrombosis. Best’s talents were not confined just to academics; he was a good athlete too. He was a professional basketball player and paid his fee with his earnings from basketball matches. However, his real calling being science, Best did not choose to become an athlete and opted for the research offer of Frederick Banting, turning down an offer to play in a high ranking team.
Co-discovery Of Insulin
Spring of 1921 became a turning point in Best’s life. It was during this time that Dr. Banting travelled to Toronto to visit J.J.R. Macleod who was working as the professor of physiology at the University of Toronto. Banting asked Macleod for permission to use his laboratory for his research work. Though skeptical initially, Macleod eventually agreed to allow Dr. Banting to use his laboratory and also allotted two medical students, Charles Best and Clark Noble, to assist in the research. However, Banting needed only one assistant and so, he flipped a coin to decide whom to pick. The coin favoured Best and he became Banting’s assistant for research. Banting was deeply impressed by Best’s efforts in the research and gave him majority of the credit for the discovery. Banting also shared half of His Nobel Prize remuneration with Best.
Career Post Discovery
After the successful participation in the discovery of insulin, Best joined as a professor of Physiology in the University of Toronto in 1929, succeeding Macleod. He played an instrumental role in establishing a Canadian program for securing and using dried human blood serum. He then became an adviser to the United Nations World Health Organization’s ‘Medical Research Committee’.
Best married Margaret Hooper Mahon in 1924 in Toronto and the couple had two sons. One among their sons was Dr. Henry Best, a well-regarded historian who went on to become president of Laurentian University in Sudbury. Charles Best died in Toronto on March 31, 1978.
Awards And Honors
- Best was elected as a member of foreign American Academy of Arts and Sciences as an honorary member in 1948.
- He was recognized for his contribution to medicine and made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967.
- Best was placed as the commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire and was also awarded a membership of Order of the Companions of Honor in 1971.
- Best was also bestowed with the fellowship of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada.
- He was elected into the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and became the first Canadian to receive this honor.
- He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1994, posthumously.
- He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004, posthumously.
- Educational institutions like Dr. Charles Best Secondary School in Coquitlam, C.H. Best East Middle School in Toronto, Ontario and British Columbia, C.H. Best West Elementary School in Burlington, Ontario are named in his honor.
Best received as many as eighteen Honorary Degrees from many Universities around the world. These universities are:
- Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki
- Free University of Berlin
- Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Northwestern University
- Université Sorbonne de Paris
- University of Amsterdam
- University of Cambridge
- University of Chicago
- University of Chile
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Liège
- University of Louvain
- University of Melbourne
- University of Oxford
- University of San Marcos
- University of Toronto
- University of Uruguay
- University of Zagreb