Monday, September 6, 2010

Why HEATLEY rather than Fletcher,Chain or Jennings ?

The attempt to make Oxford penicillin the "Received Pronunciation" of world penicillin....

OXFORD :"First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin, Paris and Cape Town..."

Fletcher could have accompanied Florey to America to remind Americans that Britons had also ,me-too, used penicillin to treat patients... after Dawson did it first in America.

Chain could be there, to say penicillin was his idea and that Florey only got interested after it got promising - and to admit, yes, his own chemical work was not yet as advanced as Meyer and the Schering Corp was in America.

Jennings could have gone along to say that Britain did the first animal protection test (which Fleming didn't do) but that, yes, Dawson did the first human protection test, in America.

But Heatley-the-invisible, he'd never steal any glory from Florey.

And he was the assay man - the man who would act like the schoolmaster he looked like - checking every American firms' penicillin sample to measure it against the Oxford Standard, and docking marks for any firm that failed to measure up.

For just as nobody anywhere else spoke as good an English as OXFORD ENGLISH , so too nobody's penicillin would ever quite measure up to to the Oxford Standard, the Received Pronunciation  of penicillin, the only penicillin you could prescribe on the BBC or give to the King.

Two points: (1) the supposed standard, OXFORD PENICILLIN, was actually composed of 98% rubbish - and don't get me started about Oxford in general.

(2) There were in fact many many strains of penicillium producing many many different types of penicillin, depending on what they had to eat and how acidic their surroundings were etc. This is Reality at ground zero. But Florey spent the next 4 years denying and downplaying any existence of differences in types of penicillin.

His only chance at grasping the golden ring was to constantly maintain his claim that he was the first to purify penicillin - he couldn't have this claim disputed by people asking which of the twenty variants of penicillin did he ,ahem, first 'purify' exactly ?!

I don't know if Florey played chess - but he had the chess player's skill of always thinking six moves ahead of anyone he thought might possibly be his opponent as he clawed his way to the top of English Society.

And when he was a Baron and president of the Royal Society, you'd never guess he had been born in the Outback - his English was now far more RP than his penicillin ever became....

No comments:

Post a Comment