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William Kirtley, diabetes research pioneer, dies at 96

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Diabetics who control their disease with pills instead of insulin injections can thank Indiana Dr. William R. Kirtley, a pioneering diabetes researcher who died Sunday on Hilton Head Island.

Kirtley spent several months in failing health before his death Sunday at 96.

Kirtley was part of a team of researchers at Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis who made groundbreaking discoveries in the decades after World War II that helped turned a disease that before the 20th century almost always meant a painful, suffering death in weeks or months into a disorder that can be managed for decades without serious problems.

"My dad was proud of his work and what it meant for the lives of people with diabetes," Jane Kirtley said Wednesday.

Kirtley's team also made several advancements with insulin, and he was honored by the American Diabetes Association with the Banting Medal in 1971, the honor named for the Canadian doctor who shared the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1923 for the discovery of insulin.

Kirtley was a native of Crawfordsville, Ind. and earned his medical degree from Northwestern University in 1941.

- AP

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