Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dies Mirabilis : October 16th 1940 : the first ever peacetime 1A Draft and the first ever 4F penicillin needle

Oh, to be there , just to see the Janus-like faces of Columbia University's campus on dies mirabilis, October 16th 1940.

Over in one corner, led by blustery University President Butler himself, most of the campus was busily and very publicly (cue the news reel cameras) engaged in the nation's first ever peacetime draft registration process : busy triaging the best 1A youth away from the 4F rejects.

Over in another corner of the campus, a tiny band of four individuals was just as busily triaging away in the opposition direction.

Led by two world war one frontline military veterans, they had deliberately - almost provocatively - picked this, of all sacred days in WASPish America's calendar - to usher in the Age of Antibiotics.

Their choice of the first ever patients was equally provocative, not merely that one was Black and the other one was Jewish, but because both were SBEs : the 4Fs of the 4Fs, in Draft Registration terms.

 Both were dying from the disease rated as about "one hundred and ten" on a priority list running from one to one hundred on diseases of military priority.

Later on (by 1943), Columbia's campus again resumed a Janus-like cast, as one part beavered away at The Bomb, determined to se it at working ,killing, before peace broke out , while in another part of the campus, our tiny team was at work trying to see penicillin in high production, before death and pestilence broke out in the occupied lands.

But I like to think we will never again see such a contrasting day in such a small place, as we did on October 16th 1940 at Columbia University ....

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