Monday, June 24, 2013

If you could only pick one Manhattan Project ...

One Manhattan Project, procuring the weaponization of atomic fission, was the biggest project of the War. The other Manhattan Project,confounding the weaponization of penicillin, was the smallest. But if you had to choose just one , which one would it be ?

If we seek hints from High Culture, it is noteworthy there have been no highly regarded movies,plays or novels about the project to divert the originally planned use of uranium fission , as a sort of superboiler, into becoming a super weapon instead.

But many non-fiction books have been written about the atomic project's supposedly 'dramatic' events.

All evade the awkward truth that without a genuine moral dilemma experienced by any key actors, there can be no real drama.

By contrast, immediately after the war, a very good movie came out about an effort to 'maximum profitize'  penicillin, probably the closest peacetime and civilian equivalent of the Allied wartime effort to weaponize penicillin.

Clearly this 'crime' was regarded by the filmmakers (and more crucially by viewing audiences world wide as well) as almost the post war equivalent of the Holocaust and as the very symbol of the maximum evil possible.

For THE THIRD MAN was universally regarded as a classic on the day of its release and has stood the test of time, recently being voted the best British movie of all time - not bad for a black and white movie old enough to receive its Old Age Pension.

So its claim that any attempt to de-sanctifying 'the sacred penicillin' is the ultimate in evilness still seems to hold up as credible to modern audiences.

Just imagine then how that public would feel if they knew that the original narrow Allied plans for penicillin (and DDT), if unaltered, could have resulted in a greater loss of human life than even the Holocaust ?

Course unaltered, the far longer and far bigger and far more savage WWII should have seen even deaths due to misery,hunger and disease at war's end than even WWI.

As it was, the shorter, smaller WWI still lost millions at war's end to the Spanish Flu in the West and Typhus in the East.

Many millions did die at the end of WWII : but tens of millions of deaths could have been in the cards, if penicillin and DDT hadn't been available in sufficient amounts to serve all the world, not just Allied frontline troops as originally planned.

Thus Henry Dawson's lonely but ultimately successful effort  to keep penicillin de-weaponized did help to reduce the possible high death toll at the war's end.

And we all should be grateful for that....

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