Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

“It is a wonderful thing to be a witness to the struggles of physicians and researchers”

© Steve Tracy and CMHF
2016 Inductee

Michael Bliss, PhD

January 18, 1941, Leamington, Ontario
May 18, 2017
PhD, History, University of Toronto (1972) MA, History, University of Toronto (1966)
The preeminent medical historian of our era, Michael Bliss chronicled Canada’s heritage of medical research, health care, and scientific achievement for his fellow Canadians and the world. Professor Bliss’ "The Discovery of Insulin" (1982) remains an enduring classic, masterfully recounting one of the most dramatic discoveries of medical history. Dr. Bliss later published his definitive "Banting: a Biography" (1984), now in its third edition, which provided the foundation for an acclaimed television mini-series, "Glory Enough for All" (1988).

No one did more than Professor Bliss to preserve and commemorate the legacy of Canada’s first Nobel Laureates whose discovery alleviated suffering for millions and brought attention to the intellectual achievements of an emerging nation.  In telling this great story, Dr. Bliss was careful to recognize the contributions of Banting’s collaborators J. J. R. MacLeod, C.H. Best and J.B. Collip.  It is characteristic of his historical analysis that his account of insulin’s discovery remains a heroic celebration while also acknowledging the human limitations and complexities of the great men involved.

Professor Bliss’ extensive oeuvre also includes Plague: How Smallpox Devastated Montreal (1991), Harvey Cushing: A Life in Surgery (1999) and the now standard biography William Osler: A Life in Medicine (2005), a classic examination of the legendary Canadian physician who is also a founding father of modern medicine.  Professor Bliss’ taut and authoritative recreations of medical history provide professional and lay readers alike with a deeper appreciation for medical achievements and a better understanding of their context and conditions.  The whole world of scientific discovery and the art of healing is made real and compelling as a profoundly human phenomenon.

Through a lifetime of writing, lecturing and teaching, Professor Bliss has reached an enormous audience of men and women curious about the great achievements of medical science we now enjoy.  His work enshrines these achievements as durable memories and contributes to building a world founded on enlightened application of medical science for the benefit of future generations. ~WLH




Essays in Honour of Michael Bliss: Figuring the Social by E.A. Heaman, Alison Li and Shelley McKellar