Memorial for Aberdeen scientist who co-discovered insulin unveiled

Scotland's first 'talking statue' brings the story of Nobel-prize winning physiologist John JR Macleod to life.

A scientist who helped discover insulin a century ago has been honoured with a memorial in Aberdeen.

John JR Macleod was awarded the Nobel prize for his part in the ground-breaking project – one of the most significant advancements in medical science.

However, the physiologist’s achievements were largely unknown.

Now he has been celebrated in his home city with the unveiling of a new life-sized bronze sculpture in Duthie Park.

John Otto is the founder and chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society who steered the project.

He told STV News: “As the unsung medical hero that history and the world forgot, JJR Macleod is truly a man who deserves a statue.

“We are very proud to be a part of the movement to bring wider recognition of his many achievements, and to have the world’s first monument created in his honour right here in Aberdeen. So this is a very emotional day for me, I could cry, it’s fabulous.

John JR Macleod was awarded a Nobel prize for co-discovering insulin

“As someone 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.”

The statue has pride of place just yards from John Macleod’s resting place in the city’s Allanvale cemetery and sits within a newly expanded area of the park known as ‘Macleod’s Corner’.

The site features a seated figure of Macleod on a Royal Parks bench, with a Press & Journal newspaper at his side bearing a headline that refers to his 1923 Nobel Prize.

The statue sits upon a terrace made of reclaimed granite donated by Aberdeen City Council, with two replica Victorian-era park benches nearby and a landscaped ‘World Insulin Way’ leading to the site.

Ayrshire sculptor John McKenna spent more than a year working on the bronze figure and bench, which he created using the centuries-old “lost wax” casting process.

McKenna used formal photographs as well as images from family photo albums to achieve the statue’s striking resemblance to “Jack” Macleod.

The scientist’s great nephew and great nieces witnessed the honour.

His great-niece Margaret Harrop said: “It’s so exciting, so wonderful and I think of how pleased my mother and, in particular, her mother, would have been. That’s his sister and she would be so excited.

“This has been a wonderful family reunion for the whole family.”

Another great niece Elspeth Farmer remarked on beautiful the sculpture was.

‘It’s a fantastic thing,” she said. “When you say statue you think of someone standing on a plinth so to have something as beautiful I think it’s a great idea and I gather it talks.”

Family of John J.R. Macleod attended the unveiling ceremony

The memorial is also Scotland’s first and only ‘Storytelling Statue’. It talks – thanks to mobile technology.

Visitors can scan a QR code, triggering an app that simulates a call to their mobile and plays a brief recording of an actor’s voice speaking as the statue.

Acclaimed Aberdeen-born actor and Game of Thrones star David Rintoul is the voice bringing John Macleod’s story to life.

“Both my uncle and father were medical graduates of Aberdeen – my uncle qualified in 1934 and might have been taught by this man so it means a lot to me,” he explained.

The event programme included a photograph and personal letter from Her Majesty Queen Camilla.

She wrote: “This statue is a fitting tribute both to [Macleod’s] achievements and to his deep connection to this beautiful city, and I am delighted that his momentous contribution to medicine is being publicly celebrated in this way.”

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