Wednesday, June 10, 2015

wartime penicillin's Progressives vs Naturalists

The Progressives (people such as Sir Howard Florey, the OSRD and Merck) literally intended to RE-FORM things, wholesale - the human body in particular.

They advocated a sort of 'synthetic autarky' with Man replacing everything that came from Mother Nature with a better and cheaper & quicker to make artificial form.

But such re-forming, in practise, often broke down the very old fashioned farming practise of culling out whatever was regarded as 'unfit' and selecting and favouring whatever was regarded as the 'fittest'.

(Here cue the word : Eugenics.)

But with eyes only for the future, no Progressive would ever publicly admit to using such old fashioned farming techniques.

Clinging to such vestiges of the past were supposed to be the preserves of their opponents, the Naturalists, people such as Florey's opponent, Dr Martin Henry Dawson, the OPRD and Pfizer.

But all efforts - by  hundreds of the smartest chemists in the universe with money to burn- to synthesize commercial penicillin failed.

Instead, a few Naturalists, with very little resources, patiently picked the best of the best of the best of the best penicillin producing penicillium molds to greatly up penicillin yields at the point of the cow's utter rather than in improving the machinery in the milk factory.

Only near the end of the war, did a scientist finally get the chance to set a $20 UV heat lamp (bog ordinary variety !) upon a sample of the naturally best penicillin producing molds.

All this to deliberate fry the poor penicillium's DNA with UV rays, in the hope that among the dead and living dead offspring, a few fully alive cells' DNA might be altered (re-formed) to produce even more penicillin.

He indeed found these winners by the old fashioned farmers' method of patiently picking the most likely big producers and putting them to it - the proof was in the penicillin they did produce.

Against the Progressives' 'terrible simplicities', my brief account shows the unexpected wartime success of natural penicillin was a bit more complicated than might be expected ----- as usual ....

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