Monday, September 21, 2015

Homemade Hope

Like H.P. Lovecraft, Adolf Hitler could think of no greater symbol of evil than the fungoid growth, which they both saw as silently and secretively rotting normal healthy life from within.

And as is well known, Hitler considered all the Jews to be fungoid growths.

We must remember he meant it literally, to be taken as a new but fully scientific metaphor, just as the originally exclusively biological term 'fission' became extended to also mean 'nuclear fission'.

How long then would Lovecraft and Hitler have both raged to learn the details of Henry Dawson's other Manhattan Project.

The slimy beginnings of our Age of Antibiotics

For the tiny project took the metabolic excrement of a despised household pest the penicillium fungoid growth, had it extracted by another 'fungoid growth' (the German-born Jewish biochemist Karl Meyer) and finally injected it to try and save the life of yet another 'fungoid growth', American born Jew Charles Aronson !

And thus began, on October 16th 1940 in New York City, our current Age of Antibiotics.

Henry Dawson deliberately set out, I am sure, to put the cat among the Allied medical pigeons.

Because it is clear he ventured deep into two areas of science he knew nothing about, all to better make his point.

First, he chose to ignore the general consensus it was better to wait for crystal pure, patented, synthetic commercial penicillin. Just as well really, since seventy five years on, it still has never come through.

He knew nothing about fungus, let alone making fungus juice in massive pilot plant quantities on the simpliest of equipment under the most awkward of conditions.

Dawson then broke a twelve year world wide medical taboo and injected this excrement of these slimy despised molds (the lowest of the low, the least of these in the natural world) into a human patient's bloodstream.

Next, the patients he selected were working class youths, one Jewish and the other Black, who were dying of SBE - the heart disease that made Rheumatic Fever then the leading killer of school age kids.

SBE patients had already been mentally condemned by the Allied medical elite, to a death by deliberate neglect if war circumstances meant lifesaving medicine had to be rationed.

The SBEs were the lowest of the low, the 4Fs of the 4Fs, the least of these.

They were also, as heart patients, light years away from his day job speciality - the out patient treatment of chronic arthritis sufferers.

But Dawson badly wanted the Allies to change their war aims with regard to the little and disregarded and he correctly guessed that a very public fight over both treating the SBEs and and treating them with natural penicillin might just do it.

Allied war aims - prove them up or go home !

He wanted the Allies to mass produce natural penicillin, with the help of the humble fungus, during the war itself, to help all those in the world dying for lack of it --- for once to render concrete the Allies' high sounding but very hollow war aims claims.

The Allies intended instead to sharply limit penicillin's wartime production and to secretly limit its availability.

It's miracle cures were to be kept as secret as possible, until after D-Day when it use among lightly wounded Allied frontline troops would let them return to combat before the German wounded and hence provide a manpower edge.

The dying doctor Dawson held off his own body and his own government long enough to see the Allies drop their position and take up his - in the end bombers were pulled off missions to bomb and burn little children to deliver penicillin to other little children.

The homemadeness proved more important than the hope ...

However, seventy five years on, we do not really see the discarded people Dawson helped to save.

All we recall now is that the humblest and most despised of God's creatures came forth, in the darkest hours of WWII, to rescue us from the violence that the best in human civilization could devise.

When the finest in European civilizations gassed and burned all our faith in the ovens of Auschwitz, the smallest of beings, in the smallest and humblest of kitchen table settings, produced the homemade hope that restored our faith again.

For it was perhaps the unexpected elevation of the despised penicillium mold, together with the elevation of the then also despised status of the homemade, the amateur, the DIY project, the artisan and the natural that most challenged the certitudes of 'bigger is ever better' Progress.

Even after the war was over and plenty of penicillin was at hand to once again treat the SBEs....

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps Dawson's greatest legacy was a DIY tradition of natural artisan life-saving penicillin...