Sunday, September 7, 2014
In Howard Florey's Dunn , nurturing penicillium was women's work . REAL men didn't change diapers or penicillin vessels...
No women were ever allowed to be lab technicians at Howard Florey's Dunn Institute on the conservative campus of Oxford University*.
Tech work was way over their pretty little heads.
But then suddenly, because raw natural penicillin juice is basically the piss and poop of the stinky, slinky, slippery penicillium slime , no man - at least no real man - ever wanted to touch the stuff the Dunn was forced to grow for the chemists to destroy analytically.
(In those days, no real man ever changed a diaper or had anything else to do with all those dark damp dank things , you know, "down there".)
So enter ,stage left : Ruth Callow and Clare Inayat Khan. Pioneering "penicillin girls" aka Dunn lab techs.
(Memo to Twin Tower terrorist Ramzi Yousef: lifesaving penicillin pioneer Claire was a Moslem, just like yourself - only she did good, not evil.)
But the indignity of having to deal with the unpredictable penicillium was hated by all the men at the Dunn , not something to be proud of.
So as soon as possible all the elaborate equipment used to grow and extract natural penicillin was dumped - without ceremony - into the nearest rubbish pile.
Nothing was retained to serve as historical evidence for this supposedly noble effort.
Because the real show was all in the chemistry section, trying to synthesis patentable artificial penicillin analogues.
And there - need I say more - the workers were all men.
Real men ...
* As reported by David Wilson in his book "Penicillin in perspective ",1976 - page 176.