Saturday, September 6, 2014

1945's apogee of Modern science , Big science, Synthetic science : Zyklon-B, Plutonium, Napalm , DDT , Freon and leaded gas

Wow ! Quite a lot for Big Science (particularly chemists and synthetic scientists) to celebrate in 1945.

Set against that , a bit of a minor and undoubtedly temporary disappointment.

For there was (also in 1945) the totally unexpected failure by a thousand of the smartest guys in the room - nay the entire universe - to quickly synthesize the simple small molecule made by some small and extremely simple beings : penicillin.

Flash forward Gordon to 2015.

Chemistry (what's left of it) is now Green , a johnny-come-lately attempt to regain ground lost to biology and penicillin-mediated microbiology in particular.

And yes penicillin is still unpatented, still cheap and abundant, still only created by those extremely simple minded little slime cretins.

Synthetic is now passe , un-cool, like white bread to whole grain bread , and natural is the thing.

We're almost all post-moderns now (angry old white protestant male deniers of climate change, Auschwitz and post-modernity aside.)

For once Big Modern Synthetic Science was given its head (aka WWII) , a lot of us apparently didn't like what we saw.

That is why I find 1945's climatic battle between modern synthetic penicillin and postmodern natural penicillin so darn fascinating.

For the long, broad and convoluted battle between modernity and postmodernity is a story only a seasoned academic could love or fully understand.

But the tale of 1945 penicillin is a tight page turner that both laity and ivory tower can really enjoy...

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