The war began with Modern penicillin and ended - quite unexpectedly - with Postmodern penicillin.
Began with micro-grams of Modern penicillin and ended, quite unexpectedly, with kilo-tonnes of Postmodern penicillin.
In fact we began WWII itself with Modernity at its very apogee and ended it - also quite unexpectedly - with the birth pangs of Postmodernity.
And penicillin was at the very heart of that fundamental change in world views.
The differences were the two world views were differences over who made penicillin and who got penicillin.
Modern penicillin was first to be made perfectly pure and totally Man-made and totally synthetic (and made in huge ultra-modern factories) before it was deemed to to be fit enough to release for general use : and if that meant not until after the war was over, so be it.
Modern penicillin was of the sort that made for beautiful academic chemistry papers and created by new methods of total synthesis that won the admiration of all your fellow academic chemists.
(Howard Florey, after all, was an academic chemist manque.)
By contrast, Postmodern penicillin was rough and ready, 'good enough penicillin' , shovel-ready : propelled forward by engineer manques and their production & process thinking :
Will it get the job done, quickly and cheaply ? If so, then let's get going.
(For while Henry Dawson was no engineer , his two brothers were, and Iron Ring thinking it was in the family genome.)
If tiny green basement slime can do the job, in a rural converted unused milk plant employing unemployed females from the countryside with Grade Six educations, great - let's get on with it.
Doesn't anyone realize there is a war on ?
As General Groves said about the OTHER Manhattan Project: if left to their own devices, those PhD academics would polish this job forever, till long after the war --- or at least until the grants ran out.
Now who was to get the different penicillins ?
Modernity was never revealed to be more brutal and callous and instrumentality-oriented in its thinking, than in Winston Churchill's written-in-green-ink attitude as to who should get the limited British penicillin available in North Africa.
(Limited, let us not forget, only because middle level bureaucrats in his same government had willed it to be limited.)
The severely wounded war heroes dying in Cairo hospitals had been judged once as eugenically 1A or they would have never have ended in in combat units and thus in position to be severely wounded in battle.
Judged 1A yesterday - but this is today : even if we wasted ( Churchill's chilling own words) precious penicillin on them and they survived as a result, they would be discharged as unfit for further service and remain a drain on the middle class taxpayers
until their natural deaths.
Heroes yes, but eugenically, now just 4F 'defectives'.
By contrast, the still-healthy paratroopers who cheated on their wive and deliberately got a dose of the Clap so as to avoid becoming a shot-up 'Hero' in battle, could be cured in two days by penicillin and still get his opportunity to die in battle, so my son won't have to.
He was still 1A and he - and he alone -should get the limited penicillin we have now.
And he alone deserves the moderate amounts of A1 penicillin we'll soon be making, as long as this war lasts.
Postmodern penicillin, by contrast, was for everyone - now : all those dying of infections it could cure: be they 'useless' war hero wounded, 4F civilians back home or in newly liberated territories, or even enemy POWs.
Then after the dyings' needs had been met, it was for all those who had infections it could cure.
Wartime penicillin for all was not a rain on war resources but the best means we have to win the world's hearts and minds.
So Postmodern penicillin was to be made and distributed in the spirit of a bye gone sentiment : Chivalry....
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