Innovation in Science continues its look at boundary-pushing scientists from history with the discoverer of Insulin

The Royal Mint’s ‘Innovation in Science’ series of fifty pence coins follows John Logic Baird, Stephen Hawking, Rosalind Franklin, and Charles Babbage with a giant event in medical science, the discovery of Insulin. Dr John Macleod, Sir Frederick Banting, Dr Charles Best and Dr James Collip, amy not be names that roll off the tongue of as many people as the others in this series, but their discovery has done a staggering amount of good for the vast numbers of people that suffer from diabetes, a very common illness in the 21st century.

Artist Iris De La Torre, has kept the series on track with a stylised geometric design in keeping with previous issues, but also adding some nice touches that others might have missed. The hexagons are idealised human insulin crystals, and we’re assuming the circles are meant to represent blood cells. I’d imagine it was quite hard to make a geometric design based on human blood and medicine, but De La Torre has managed perfectly. The inscribed title also has the chemical composition of Insulin underneath it. The obverse is, as usual, just the effigy of QEII with the issue inscriptions.

As a fifty pence coin, it follows a strict specification, so the seven-sided strike comes in sterling (0.925) silver at 8 grams in weight, or 16 grams in double thickness piedfort form. A 22kt (0.9167) gold coin of half an ounce, rounds out the selection we’re looking at here, although there’s also a base-metal version if that’s where your interest lies. This isn’t an ‘in your face’ series, but certainly a worthy and interesting one, quite able to educate. Nice. Available now.


The 100 Years of Insulin 50p celebrates the life-saving treatment for diabetes discovered by researchers; Dr John Macleod, Sir Frederick Banting, Dr Charles Best and Dr James Collip in 1921.

Designed by renowned artist Iris De La Torre, the contemporary design is an artistic interpretation of the structure of insulin along with its molecular formula. Inspired by an image of human insulin crystals through a microscope, the design features a geometric pattern repeat using hexagons and circular shapes on the canvas of an official UK 50p coin.

The Royal Mint’s Divisional Director of Commemorative Coin Clare Maclennan said: “The collectable 100 Years of Insulin 50p, designed by artist Iris De La Torre, is a beautiful piece of art which celebrates the importance of the ground-breaking discovery of insulin on an official UK coin. A landmark medical breakthrough of the twentieth century, it has transformed the lives of people with diabetes for 100 years and is a fitting addition to our Innovation in Science collectable series, marking the greatest scientific innovations and the remarkable people behind them.”

Designer of the 100 Years of Insulin 50p, artist Iris De La Torre, said: “Coins are pieces of art and maintainers of history and tradition and so to see my design on an official UK coin that celebrates and raises awareness of such an important discovery is a dream come true.”

Speaking of the design, she added: “I came up with a design inspired by images of an accurate segmentation of single-isolated human insulin crystals for in-situ microscopy that I found in a medical document online. The image shows segments of human insulin crystals in the form of hexagons. It is a beautiful image and inspired a pattern repeat which worked well on the 50p coin.”

Professor Mirela Delibegovic, Director of the University of Aberdeen’s Cardiovascular and Diabetes Centre, consulted with The Royal Mint on this project, adding: “The insulin breakthrough is one of the most significant in medical sciences and was led by a team which included University of Aberdeen graduate JJR MacLeod. We are delighted to see this legacy recognised on a UK coin. This beautiful design is a fitting tribute to the Toronto research team and for all the researchers who have followed in their footsteps by working on new ways to treat and manage diabetes.”

COMPOSITION 0.9167 gold 0.925 silver 0.925 silver
WEIGHT 15.50 grams 16.0 grams 8.0 grams
DIMENSIONS 27.30 mm 27.30 mm 27.30 mm
FINISH Proof Proof Proof
MAX MINTAGE 260 1,510 3,710
EDGE TEXT None None None
R.R.P. £1,065.00 £102.50 £57.50