Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Penicillin, age 13, meets her first lover : Henry Dawson

Mad, is he ??
It was frequently said of Dr Henry Dawson (as it was of General James Wolfe) that he was quite mad.

But what can one say in response, that George II hasn't already said much better over two hundred and fifty years earlier ?

It is true that Henry Dawson was quite mad , mad on the subject of the "unlimited potential" of penicillin , at a time (1941) when almost all ignored it and even its own 'supporters' damned it with veiled praise.

It was the Philadelphia Bulletin, at the time America's largest evening newspaper, that quotes him as saying ( May 5th 1941) that penicillin has "unlimited possibilities."

The New York Times' headline the next day, quotes him as describing penicillin as a Giant Germicide, non-toxic to a marked degree (unlike the then standard sulfa drugs) and "the most powerful germ killer ever discovered" : thousands of times more potent than any sulfa drug.

Hundreds of the world's top doctors heard Dawson's presentation on penicillin and many doctors described it as "opening a new chapter" on the medical fight against the deadly gram-positive bacteria.

Dawson was judged as "uncritically enthusiastic"

No wonder with such gushiness that a powerful member of the American medical establishment , Stanhope Bayne-Jones , snifflingly dismissed Dawson to (later Baron) Howard Florey, as "uncritically enthusiastic".

But was there ever (will there ever be) a better life-saver to be "uncritically enthusiastic" over than penicillin ?

Mad is he ? Well, I wish he'd bite my other doctors.....

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