Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wartime Penicillin intended to be secret and synthetic

It ended up public and 'public domain' natural, thanks to Henry Dawson and his supporters.

The British War Department and the American OSRD (run by Vannevar Bush) had expected to quickly, cheaply and, above all, secretively mass produce synthetic penicillin.

Enough artificial penicillin to supply the Allied front lines in the big pushback against Tojo and Hitler, while the enemy had to make do with the rapidly failing Sulfa drugs or try to produce tiny amounts of impure natural penicillin.

The whole project depended on keeping accounts of penicillin's miracle cures away from the Allied public.

That would only create a public sensation , as it had earlier for Sulfa's first miracle cures, which the Axis would soon learn about , thanks to newspaper articles in Neutral papers.

Once alerted, clever German and Japanese chemists would also soon synthesize penicillin and negate the temporary military advantage the Allies had gained via secrecy.

So : the potentially morally shabby story of wartime penicillin : medicine as a weapon.

But when the normally-stodgy Henry Dawson actually dared to steal government-sanctioned war penicillin to successfully save some young 4F kids banefully abandoned by their government as just 'useless mouths' , word spread rapidly in the gossip-driven circles of wartime medical New York.

A young doctor with his own burden of prejudice from the anglo protestant medical elite to rouse his ire, Dante Colitti,  got the newspaper chain that invented yellow journalism (Hearst) to come to the defence of the yellow magic and no sooner than you could say 'that darling little Patty Malone', the jig was up for the OSRD and War Department.....

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