Friday, October 8, 2010

CRITICAL biography of Norman Heatley long, long overdue

I don't think Norman Heatley (1911-2004) did as much to advance penicillin as he thought he did.

I think a more balanced collective biography of the entire Oxford team might better spread the credit (and blame) about.

It seems to me that Glister and Sanders did far more, and Heatley far less ,to get penicillin production actually working and producing.

Norman himself conveyed to the world his view that he felt he was no longer a key member of the Oxford penicillin team after 1943 - as the historical blue plaque on his home so indicates.

(He even tried to apply for a job at a drug firm far far from the Dunn in 1944 !)

The Oxford team kept up their penicillin work up to the war's end in 1945 and beyond -I am curious to know what it was  that Heatley felt he was doing at the Dunn between 1943 and 1946, if it didn't involve penicillin.

Sanders and Glister and all the rest - except Florey and Heatley  -were never very interested to tell their part in the penicillin saga at Oxford.

So in this land of the blind, the one-eyed Heatley became king - particularly in the 36 years after Florey's death.

Heatley grew ever bolder in his claims ,as more and more of
'the old gang' passed on beyond the point of rebuttals via 'letters to the editor', directed at The Times.

The Oxford community, still unable to understand how credit for penicillin was taken up by a Scotsman (Alexander Fleming) and a  parvenu American soda pop company (Pfizer), fully supported Heatley in this effort.

I don't expect my biography of another penicillin pioneer, close associate of Pfizer, and a Scotman, Martin Henry Dawson, to be any more popular in Oxford.....

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