Thursday, December 31, 2015

wartime penicillin : Outsiders vs Insiders

In 1940, Canada, Britain and America had similar equally insular little clubs of a few elite research oriented (Ivy League) universities, a few national government science agencies and a few top research-oriented pharmaceutical firms, all strung closely together like pearls on a necklace, down along their relatively compact major urban corridor.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

wartime Penicillin a tale of 3 urban corridors

The story of wartime penicillin at first glance appears to sprawl all over the entire globe but I argue it mostly happened mostly along three relatively small but very important urban corridors in America, the UK and Canada.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

OSRD boosters in academia don't want you to read this

OSRD  vs  OPRD and OSS

Bertrand Goldberg was an important pioneering industrial designer - someone who was one part architect and one part engineer.

In 1943, he teamed up with Westinghouse and the OSS (yeah the pre-CIA spy guys!) to come up with a way to grow and process natural penicillin at the front lines, particularly in the then current North Africa campaign.

No official frontline grow ops along the clever methods proposed by Goldberg were ever built, but I have come across plenty of unofficial and semi-official grow ops on the North African - Italian - West Africa - India - China front lines that did save lives.

I suspect Vannevar Bush's GOP-oriented OSRD, the de facto Lobbyist-in-Washington for the entwined couple of Big Pharma & Big Academia , put a quick stop to the OSS idea.

For if army medic technicians could make life-saving penicillin under relatively primitive conditions in the combat zones, how could Big Pharma hope to charge high prices for their high tech synthetic penicillin and how could the scientists at the big research universities sustain their claim of exclusive arcane knowledge ?

The OSRD and its British equivalent never did produce any significant amounts of wartime penicillin - synthetic or otherwise.

Wartime penicillin in mass production levels came about mostly thanks to the efforts of the almost unknown OPRD branch of the New Deal-oriented WPB (War Production Board).

But the OPRD successes and Goldberg's mobile penicillin lab remains almost unknown in academic and popular accounts of wartime penicillin, where the totally inaccurate PR version touted by the OSRD and its fellow travellers holds firm sway.

The OSRD's story won out largely because the OSRD and Vannevar Bush told postwar academic researchers exactly what they always wanted to hear : proposing that the taxpayers give them lots of money ---and then leave them strictly alone.

As a result most academics researching wartime penicillin have let down their guard and generally bought into the OSRD version of the facts without really examining it closely.

Simply put, my thesis is that the biggest disaster for the mass production of cheap abundant penicillin during WWII was the day that the OSRD got its hooks into it.

Only the unexpected intervention for the Hearst newspaper chain building up a storm over the fate of baby Patty Malone changed the dynamics so completely that penicillin suddenly became one of the biggest success stories of WWII.

A huge success story, and one that the OSRD then claimed credit for, contrary to all the facts.....

Millenniums the NEW VICTORIANS ?

Warning : reading the text in this space may trigger vague little feelings of aggression towards its author

To briefly recap, the Victorians of 150 years ago covered up the legs of pianos not because there was actual scientific evidence that the sight encouraged males to ravage females, but because many people simply 'felt' it would and because the sight of bare furniture legs made them 'feel' uneasy.

Fast forward to today and many millenniums are equally convinced that simply because they 'feel' learning about historical injustices will make them 'feel' uncomfortable, universities should not be permitted to talk about them.

Emotions, then and now, trump facts.

And because one of the best (and best paid) sinecures in the whole world is to create better paid tasks for yourself in the administration of a university, there are always lots of university admins about eager to coddle all these new phobias of these New Victorian cum post-millennium students.

Universities - at least in the eyes of their admin types - are strictly businesses these days and cash cow students, not taxpayers, are the real customers --- if enough unhappy students leave university A for university B, the first lot of admins will be out of a job.

So it becomes 'give 'em whatever they want -- above all, keep the customer satisfied'.

Millenniums are too busy sexting to take up all of the Victorian Era's broad phobia over matters sexual, but there are many new terrors these New Victorians will no doubt want to cover up with the help of the universities' Mr Bowdler and Mrs Grundy....

Dawson the ENGINEER of DNA & Penicillin

Dr (Martin) Henry Dawson did not discover DNA or Penicillin but he was the very first to develop their tremendous potential --- thus the very first to put DNA to work in the test tube & penicillin to work in the bloodstream of a human patient.

Perhaps better then to regard Dawson as penicillin & DNA's preeminent can-do engineer, rather than just one of their many ivory tower scientists.....

Friday, December 11, 2015

ATP, DNA and PEN : Meyer & Dawson

Ernst Chain is generally considered to be very lucky to have received a Nobel prize.

And he knew it --- at the end of his life he ruefully reflected on the difference between being lucky enough to receive a Nobel prize and on being a true genius.

Ernst Chain : "True genius consists of being lucky --- TWICE"

Remember that when you ask yourself how it was that a dying doctor and a chemist who could barely be understood in English, working in a small lab between 1940-1944, could do so much to improve our whole world with their pioneering efforts with the penicillin molecule.

Experience with supervisors, not fungi, united Meyer & Dawson

On January 1st 1863, legend says that Lincoln freed all the slaves.

All but in the science departments of universities.

There graduate students still slave to accidentally discover unexpectedly important things ---- which their supervisors and their pets often take up as their own.

In 1928 Henry Dawson experienced a variant of this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

wartime Penicillin : patent or parable ?

Dr Henry Dawson deliberately and uncharacteristically 'reached' well beyond his professional grasp, when during the worst weeks of WWII he resolved to employ the discounted penicillium slime to save the lives of the equally discounted SBE patients.

His direct actions over the next five years of the war saved a mere handful of lives --- and cost him his life.

But Dawson clearly hoped all along that his highly quixotic actions would be only be understandable to puzzled observers, if seen as a sort of Parable-In-Action.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Symbolic manhattan project's "Parable of Penicillin"

There can be absolutely no doubt about the 'concreteness' of the the atomic Manhattan Project.

Indeed one can argue the specific 1940s term "Manhattan Project" has today morphed into a general shorthand for any sort of immense national effort devoted to one specific end.

The concept seemingly attaches itself to any proposal that potentially involves hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of scientists and hundreds of thousands of other employees,working in dozens of massive institutions and plants.

Particularly when directed by a broad national consensus that the work needs to be done right and done now --- and hence done big.

Seemingly nothing could be further from this use of the term than Henry Dawson's little Manhattan project, running in the exact same years as the atomic project, in fact operating on the same campuses of the same NYC university.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Radio & TV News : why ?

If I were Prime Minister, Radio and TV News shows and staffers would be gone in a flash.

If humanity lost all its radio and TV news overnight, it won't lose a thing--- just as long as we still had long form texts with pictures in our print media. Even better, long, long form texts and plentifully pictures with a few links to short audio and video clips, available 24/7/365 online.

I loved radio and TV, though I generally never go near them these days. I think they are/were wonderful pipelines for delivering music and movies, sports and live events - even current affairs shows with five pundits yelling at each other.

Radio and TV do emotion and drama wonderfully - but they don't deliver detailed explanations very well. They don't provide the rewinding-ness of video and records and the multi-column-ness of newspapers and magazines.

IV simplicity will win Canada's electoral reform

I really love what Fair Vote Canada is doing but I do think they are taking the wrong approach by simply taking up the century-old term for their side of the electoral reform debate : Proportional Representation or PR.

It sounds mathematical, because it is.

It  also sounds like calculus and complicated.

And difficult and cold hearted and mechanical.

Most kids hate math and most grow up to be voters, who still hate math.

The other side will freely and cheerily admit their voting system is less fair than PR but that it is much less complicated ---- and so will win.

Because the simplest electoral reform proposal will win - make no mistake about that.

But who says we can't make our side, the PR/Fair Vote side, the simplest side ?

We can simply say that in an inclusive society like Canada, we also need inclusive voting : IV instead of PR.

And that in an inclusive society there should be a voice in parliament for every voter.

Full stop.

Make the others defend all their (inherently) complicated exclusivity voting systems.

Why do I say that exclusion voting systems are inherently complicated ?

Because it always takes far less words to say "all welcome" than to say "this is a gated community : no dogs, jews or negroes admitted (all tradesmen use the back door) --- suit and tie/ formal evening wear is required to enter the dining hall --- no women permitted in the smoking and snooker hall."

In terms of grammar, as well as math, the word inclusivity is a sweepingly simple and absolutely inclusive term - in fact the very definition of one.

Inclusivity is like a simple rule while exclusivity is all those pesky complicated exceptions to simple rules.

Exclusivity is that darned fine print at the bottom of every insurance contract.

People hate the policy payment voiding exclusions found in all that small print even worse than they hate math --- if we people on the PR side of life --- and that includes Kelly's crew at Fair Vote - only but give them a chance to....

Libretto for H.S., Church Hall, Community Theatre

I hope to God that future musical versions of IVstat doesn't ever play on Broadway or make a few people very rich.

That would be my personal idea of Hell and an example of total abject failure.

I always intended this blog's contents (and the relatively few blog posts that form a formal linear narrative) to merely form the 'back story' to a fire-starting "closet libretto" about Henry Dawson's inclusivity visions.

So I certainly hope many other people, around the world, try making Dawson's globe-changing but intimate WWII epic struggle into a full musical.

And I definitely hope that the most successful and best loved IVstat musicals are PD (public domain) and put on by amateurs ; people doing it for love, like Henry Dawson himself.

Performed in high school, college and university auditoriums, in church and legion halls ; put on by kids in school and by adults in community theatre.

I hope only that the musical entertains, moves and uplifts while making viewers seriously question their own potential ethical behavior in times of global crisis.

Like our looming ecological disaster.

Along the lines of, "now what would Henry do ?"

Emotional Core of IVstat

A dying doctor enlists excluded helpers to save the lives of excluded patients, hoping his small example of medical 'inclusivity' might challenge the policies of exclusion found on all sides of WWII. Against all odds, it does.