Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scots wha hae wartime penicillin : chase Fleming's synthetic chimera or save lives with Dawson's shovel-ready ?

Dawson vs Fleming decided wartime PENICILLIN 
The battle over the direction of wartime penicillin can be presented, semi-accurately, as a showdown between two Scots with widely different concepts of the continuing value of chivalry in a Modernist Age.

By unlikely coincidence , our two Scots, Alexander Fleming and Henry Dawson, were both born on August 6th, albeit 15 years apart (1881 and 1896).

Fleming was 18 when the Boer War broke out but refused to go and fight - he loved being in the London Scottish Rifles and was a keen marksman but was not really up for dying and discomfort and all that real chivalry stuff.

Dawson was also 18 when WWI broke out but only joined up in October 1915, after nurse Edith Cavell was murdered by the Germans in Belgium.

Dawson started off in the medical corps as a private and orderly  but became a junior officer in the infantry and trench mortar artillery, was wounded twice and got the MC with citation for displaying bravery, chivalry and command despite being badly wounded.

Now it is widely claimed that Modernity repudiated Chivalry, after the horrors of the battles of Somme and Arras during World War One.

Modernity repudiates Chivalry : Chivalry repudiates Modernity right back

But a few writers - like Raymond Chandler and Howard Koch - claim that in World War Two, Chivalry repudiated Modernity and this is a thesis that I also hold - pointing to the Henry Dawson and Patty Malone stories as my prime examples of proof.

Fleming and his ilk : Florey, the NAS/OSRD/MRC et al , were seemingly contend between 1928 and 1945 to keep on polishing a turd, to still chase the chimera of synthetic penicillin for a few years more, while the world all around them burned.

Dawson passionately believed that if impure natural penicillin could save lives now , he had a moral duty to do so - Now !

His penicillin might be quick and dirty and a pain in the butt* for doctors and hospitals to keep in supply but it was shovel-ready, with its sleeves rolled up, ready to save lives : anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Fleming's synthetic chimera won all the early innings but Dawson's shovel-ready came from behind to win the race , in the late months of 1943.

Just as Chandler's Big Sleep had proved an unexpectedly massive hit with the general public and voters, so had Howard Koch's Casablanca and Henry Dawson's shovel-ready attitude of using existing natural - albeit impure - penicillin to save lives of 4F civilians today !

Chivalry - it turns out - was far from dead....

* and often , a literal 'pain the butt' for the patients too !

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