Monday, September 20, 2010

"Howard Florey stole the true story of wartime penicillin - we're here to steal it back !"

People ask what is the purpose of this blog/book "MO goes PO".

Here it is:

America - and Britain - and a whole lot of other countries made wartime penicillin.

No one stole penicillin (a natural product and hence already in the Public Domain) from anyone else - this was thanks to the pre-war legacy of Alexander Fleming freely spreading his unique strain of penicillium spores world wide.

It is true some  - in America - tried to control penicillin by sharing publicly-funded highly productive strains with only themselves and their pals - thankfully that scheme failed to do more than needlessly delay wartime penicillin's wide introduction.

On the other hand, Howard Florey and his post war supporters (many of whom are American) successfully and seemingly permanently 'stole' the true story of wartime penicillin away from America.

There was about nothing as petty as fighting over mere billions in dollars of profits.

This was the world's best known and best loved - and simply 'the best' - medical cure ever.

So it mattered muchly, which individuals, institutions and nations got the bulk of the glory for bringing it forth for All Humanity to enjoy.

This is was a battle over who controlled the Narrative and the Brand of the world's greatest Miracle.

Britain may have lost an Empire and its position as a World Power - but it clung onto penicillin-the-narrative.

All that America got was credit for the Manhattan Project and giving us the terror of Atomic Death to All Humanity.

Hardly a fair exchange.

I merely wish to suggest that the tiny "Manhattan Pilot" project had a very much bigger impact in the popular discovery of - and hence the immediate mass development of - wartime penicillin then it has been given credit for in the Florey-dominated story of wartime penicillin.

So  - and to recall Bono's memorable phrase in Rattle and Hum -
"we're here to steal it back !"

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