Friday, January 18, 2013

Wartime penicillin's six year odyssey : from secret war weapon to widely publicized beacon of hope

Without really meaning to, we tend to reify World War Two from a six year long process into a single event ("the war"), when we say things like "millions of women went to work in factories for the first time in their lives in WWII".

An event is like my last birthday ---- where I either did or did not have a birthday cake.

But a very long, quasi-total-war spread over an entire world is bound to see seemingly universal processes like "war-time rationing" or "women's war-factory work" actually break down into a huge number of situations happening at different times, to different extents , in different places.

Wartime penicillin was neither a top secret military weapon or a widely publicized beacon of hope but rather both and more - depending upon the time, the place and the institutions and individuals involved.

Wartime penicillin was a six year long debate on the nature of what it is to be human 

Defining the exact nature of wartime penicillin was a six year long debate , a very feisty debate between many people, that probed the deepest questions that humans can ask.

This is why I  continue to write about it, 75 years after the events....

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