Thursday, December 12, 2013

1943 : Africa's poorest get penicillin BEFORE well-to-do in America and England

Not, admittedly , a headline you're ever likely to see soon above mainstream (ie , American and British) penicillin histories , but that doesn't make it any less true.

George Marshall Findlay (1893-1952) , together with Kenneth R Hill and A MacPherson, brewed up his own crude penicillin in 1943 to apply upon the open ulcers of the dreaded disease Yaws on West African sufferers and got great results.

He had to do it all himself because Britain and America were too busy fighting over how to divided the world into two big markets after they had synthesized penicillin to actually make any serious amounts of (natural) penicillin to save lives in the here and now*.

*here and now : aka WWII.

America ,as is well known, has a pathological resistance to ever signing international treaties but there it was , in the middle of an all out war, negotiating a international treaty with Britain on the post war market division for their shared patented synthetic penicillin.

The two planned an exclusive on the lifesaver even tighter than they planned to have on the A-bomb.

That meant no encouragement of natural penicillin plants in Africa, South America, India and East Asia .

The Anglo-American fear was that in these places ready access to very cheap labour and even readier access to cheap sugar cane waste (as a carbon source feedstock) would permit the local crude penicillin to undercut the price of profit-inflated synthetic penicillin shipped in from thousands of miles away.

But penicillium spores are like the A-bomb's radioactive fallout clouds : no respecter of national borders and international commercial treaties.

They drifted in and out of Britain and its distant colonies alike and that meant crude penicillin could be made everywhere under cottage industry conditions.

(Even at the battlefront in Italy by barely trained Canadian medics using potato washings as a feedstock !)

"All Life is Family" Pt 1. (1939-1945: a cure for science) , will detail all the world-wide WWII efforts to make crude penicillin that it can find.

All this in an effort to combat the Whig history of wartime penicillin that strongly suggests that the actual end result - cheap abundant natural penicillin - was what the Anglo-American governments and their medical cum scientific cum commercial elites wanted all along.

It intends to bring the dreaded "C" word into science talk : conflict , as in conflict between scientists working on the same wartime "side".

And it will detail scientific winners and losers , again both working on the same wartime side.

A welcome change from the zillions of WWII science stories that always seem to show Allied scientists beating Axis scientists in a dramatic race against time - when in fact, the evidence is much more mixed as to who did what first -- and whether coming first ever really mattered.

Yes, the Axis lost the war, but no , it wasn't at all due to their low quality of science.

Seventy five years after the war, can't we stop re-fighting WWII based on propaganda lies ...

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