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Insulin pioneer John Macleod honoured with life-size, story-telling statue

A life-size bronze sculpture of John JR Macleod, the pioneering physiologist who played a key role in the discovery of insulin has been unveiled in Duthie Park, Aberdeen.

Macleod co-discovered insulin in 1922 and this year marks the centenary of his Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology that he was awarded in 1923 alongside Frederick Banting.

After moving to Aberdeen with his family at the age of seven, Macleod travelled to Canada after graduating in medicine where he began researching diabetes alongside colleagues. This work led to the most successful treatment for diabetes – the discovery of insulin.

Macleod returned to Scotland in 1928 to become Regius Professor of Physiology at Aberdeen University.

Statue honours Macleod's life

The statue is the first in the world to honour Macleod's life. The memorial shows Macleod on a Royal Parks bench with a newspaper bearing the headline referring to the prize. Two replica Victorian-era park benches sit nearby along with a landscaped 'World Insulin Way' leading to the site.

Described as the first ‘storytelling statue’ of its kind in Scotland, visitors can scan a QR code that plays a short recording of a voice speaking as the statue. John Macleod’s monologue was recorded by actor David Rintoul, a native of Aberdeen.

John Otto, founder and chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society, who along with co-founder Kimberlie Hamilton raised funds for the project, said:

"As someone with type 1 diabetes who has been dependent on daily injections of insulin for the past 50 years, it has been a surreal but gratifying experience to watch this long-held dream become a reality. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to JJR Macleod for giving me life, along with millions of others with type 1 diabetes around the world."

Among the 300 guests at the invitation unveiling event were JJR Macleod’s family members, representatives from Aberdeen City Council, academics from Aberdeen University and representatives from JDRF UK and Diabetes UK.

John Kinnear, National Director of Diabetes Scotland (pictured, with Alison Grant, Health System Manager of Diabetes Scotland), said:

“I am delighted that John Macleod’s involvement in the development of the world’s first clinically useful insulin is being publicly celebrated in this way. The wonderful statue will be a lasting tribute to Macleod and encourage contemplation of his achievements.

"It was one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in history, which has gone on to save millions of lives around the world.”

John continued:

“Everything we know about diabetes - every drug, device and development has only been possible because of research. Our scientists have made incredible breakthroughs – from helping people with type 1 diabetes to make their own insulin, to putting type 2 diabetes into remission. And we’re getting closer to a cure every day.

"All this is only possible because of our supporters.”

We are the leading charitable funder of diabetes research, funding scientists across the UK for over 85 years. Find out what we've discovered.

Photo credit: Neil Gordon of

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