Friday, July 23, 2010

Penicillin's "GREAT DEPRESSION" finally ends Oct16/40

She finally got a decent job, a real job,a permanent job, on that day in a small green room in New York City - and she has never really looked back.

For her, the nightmare of Les Douze Ans Perdu (The Twelve Years Lost), were finally over.

In relation to this seachange for Ms penicillin, the nicest thing I have found anyone ever said about Martin Henry Dawson was said, ironically, by one of his fiercest opponents.

Dr Stanhope Bayne-Jones and Dawson had clashed in 1939 at an important medical meeting, over the etiology of one variant of rat bite fever.

Things like this happen all the time - the best don't hold grudges, but Bayne-Jones did and more importantly, he was in 1941 a very big somebody in the nexus of academic-military-governmental medical affairs of an American nation about to go to war.

So in July 1941, when Howard Florey, desperately worried that Dawson was about to beat him to the laurels for penicillin ( Dawson was not competing with Florey - he was trying his darnest to help Florey, but Florey was nothing if not paranoid), asked Bayne-Jones about Dawson's reputation, he got an earful.

In strictest confidence Bayne-Jones confided, the guy is is quite honest, but "uncritically enthusiastic".

There are no worse words to hear for the sort of practical,sober,sensible men who end up as science administrators --- people like Florey and Bayne-Jones.

Penicillin, by contrast, loved those words.

For twelve long cold years, she had languished in the custody of sensible practical men.

Many had looked her over carefully, as if she was a possible choice of a new race horse , her good and bad points carefully and thoughtfully weighed but in the end, never once invited to the Meet.

Finally she had met a guy, with a lot of faults of his own, but someone who loved her unreservedly, despite of all her many downsides.

On the human side of things, he already had a wive and kids, and penicillin was far from being his only beau in science.

He had given his heart just as unreservedly to HGT & Quorum Sensing,  at a time when all the practical men dismissed it as just another laboratory oddity.

But what penicillin so badly needed right then was a little walk on the bad side, with a wild man and a fool, someone who drove too fast and loved too hard.

Any every once in a while, unlikely as it seems, the normally cautious Dawson threw off all traces and just 'went for it'.

His caution was frequently reserved most strongly for the fashionable verities of the day, and he was just as willing to champion an unfashionable idea if he felt it had merit , as he was to criticize an idea held up by all the authorities of the day as worthy of attention.

"Martin Henry Dawson: "Uncritically enthusiastic" for DNA & Penicillin, at a time when all the sensible authorities dismissed them"

I like it - it seems a suitable epitaph ...

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