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, 76 (2), 231-70

Making the Unit of Insulin: Standards, Clinical Work, and Industry, 1920-1925

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Making the Unit of Insulin: Standards, Clinical Work, and Industry, 1920-1925

Christiane Sinding. Bull Hist Med.

Abstract

The standardization of insulin is generally considered by historians to have been a process conducted by physiologists under the direction of Henry Dale. This article shows that it actually involved many actors and began with the earliest administration to patients in Canada and the United States. During this first phase, the drug company Eli Lilly also contributed actively to the standardization, under the scientific direction of George Clowes. This is not to undermine the role of Dale, whose political leadership was paramount for the international phase of the standardization. His scientific contribution, however, was a continuation of previous work led by physiologists, clinicians, and pharmacists. The production and packaging of insulin in standardized units thus appears to be the result of the impressive working of a transdisciplinary and transnational network. It also highlights how new modes of drug regulation were elaborated by state bodies in the early 1920s and paved the way for more extensive reforms.

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