Wilbur Franks > Charlotte’s Friend and the Hot Sauce

Here at Banting House NHSC we remember and honour the life of the creator of insulin; what may surprise many people, however, is that even with this enormous impact, there are a variety of other areas that history remembers him for.

Perhaps the most magnificent of these, and certainly something we all appreciate or will appreciate at some point, is the base technology for pressurized cabins. Right before the Second World War, Banting was enlisted to spearhead bringing together a group of scientists to work towards gaining an advantage over the opposing side.

The main problem at the time was that the air crafts were too advanced for the human body to handle in its natural form. The G-forces exerted on the body, that is, increased versions of that feeling you get when making a sharp turn in a car and your body is being pulled to the outside of the turn, would cause blood to pool in lower extremities. This means that the heart had a harder time bringing oxygen to the head where it’s most needed, especially in times where quick thinking and consciousness is needed… like flying a plane.

And so, Wilbur Franks joined Banting’s team. After hearing about pilots & their centrifugal force issue and having had to combat it himself in his lab with his bursting test tubes, he brought with him an idea that, under Banting’s guidance and support came to fruition.

A suit that would neutralize the pressure inside the body by having the same pressure on the outside. This would allow the blood to continue to be pumped around with relative ease and pilot blackouts almost entirely disappeared.

It was deemed to be such a significant advancement that it was only utilized on The North African Front to avoid it falling into German hands to be reverse engineered. This was regarded as unparalleled in impact on aviation medicine until Project Apollo.

Wilbur Franks wearing the G-suit created with the support of Dr. Banting.


Source: Canadian Space Agency website. (2006). Canada’s Aerospace Medicine Pioneers. [online] Available at: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/sciences/osm/aviation.asp [Accessed 27 Sep. 2018].


This post was written by Juliana van Gaalen, intern at Banting House NHSC. Juliana is currently completing her BHSc in Health Studies with a Major in Museum and Curatorial Studies at Western University.

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