Thursday, March 17, 2016

the UNSECRET Manhattan Project

For years, I have been referencing the sub-title to dying Dr Henry Dawson's successful wartime Manhattan-based effort to provide natural penicillin to all as "The other Manhattan Project."

But that leaves it sounding exactly like another Atomic Bomb effort, only worse - perhaps involving chemicals or germs - and only a minority of readers would pursue such a title any further.

I kept that sub-title because I couldn't think of a better (accurate and expressible in one word) adjective, until now.

Bush's exclusive A-Bomb vs Dawson's inclusive penicillin

If the atomic Manhattan Project was notoriously all about secrecy and exclusivity, Dawson's effort was all about inclusivity and publicity : Dawson's team ceaselessly urging others to try DIY natural penicillin production, to quickly produce cheap abundant wartime Penicillin-for-All.

So something like "The inclusive Manhattan Project" was obviously the better sub-title.

But it was one I had always rejected , despite its succinct accuracy, because it sounded too academic and too PC for about half of my potential audience.

But today I suddenly thought, just in passing, about Dawson's effort being the "unsecret" alternative to the very secret atomic Manhattan Project.

Then it struck me - it might make the perfect subtitle : accurate, succinct, and playing off the universal recognition that the atomic Manhattan project was perhaps the best known secret effort in history.

(I am aware that the Ultra project was kept totally secret for far longer but the Atomic Bomb is much better known in the world for its excessive secrecy.

It revealed a trans-continental ability to enforce secrecy upon an workforce of hundreds of thousands number of participants, a successful scaling up of traditional high tech firms' internal efforts to deny most employees overall knowledge of the firm's entire industrial process by a system of the compartmentalization of knowledge.

With 'compartmentalization', individuals would only be given enough knowledge to manage their tiny cog in the massive overall wheel.)

Dawson by contrast strived constantly to reveal all his homemade/DIY penicillin successes and failures to other agape-motivated 'amateurs' throughout the entire medical and scientific world.

This despite a constant Allied effort to unofficially censor all penicillin efforts, despite pious claims to the contrary.

Most of the success of wartime penicillin and postwar beta lactam (penicillin-based) antibiotics can be laid at the feet of amateur scientists who the official penicillin commercial-scientific establishment coldly rejected.

Amateur penicillin scientists, such as Demerec and Hollander, who suggested mutating natural penicillin strains to find strains capable of producing far more raw penicillin from the same expenditure of labour and expense.

Today, following up on their inspired ( and rejected !) suggestion, we routinely produce 100,000 times as much natural penicillin from the same amount of effort and expense as we did in 1940 !

Dawson and people like Demerec and Hollander were inclusive in both senses : seeking help from all and hoping to give the results to all.

And unsecrecy was key to their efforts...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Help from All : crowd-solving wartime penicillin

Vannevar Bush's wartime atomic Manhattan Project was among the most secret projects of all time yet Henry Dawson's wartime penicillin Manhattan Project was among the most public : crowd-solving at its very best.

Because with human-created global warming we face a crisis even bigger than WWII, we need to ask which wartime Manhattan Project offers the 21st century the best possible solution : embracing secrecy and the advice of a small elite of experts or global openness and the welcoming the wisdom of crowds ?

camel & needle easier than powerful accepting charity from the powerless

The conscience-lite version of the difficult concept of Agape is for us well-off people to give (tax-deductible) charity to distant 'poor' people we don't really like.

So most of find the difficult claims of Agape something we can reduce to manageable size.

Far harder to accept (and far more important than any version of Agape) is Humility --- accepting others as equals to our own modest talents.

Let us discuss humility as a version of 'charity'.

That means an incredibly difficult willingness, among us who are well-off and power-filled, to accept the 'charity' of help and assistance from people who are relatively poor and relatively powerless --- powerless people who might be filled with new and unexpected takes on dealing with life-threatening problems too difficult for us to solve on our own.

Accepting the poor and powerless as equals in problem solving makes it much more difficult to dismiss their right to share in society's wealth and power as well.

This is why even when nations are in life and death struggles of a total war, their existing elites show an incredible reluctance to allow powerless members of their societies to share in the nation-saving activity of  frontline combat roles.

After the war, they know that these minority group combat veterans will remind the 'stay at home/well off' (the two terms are often connected) that they saved their bacon in their nation's greatest hour of need and so deserve a share of their nation's power and wealth.

Modernity's professional/expert/priestly caste elites (medical scientists for example) are among those who feel most threatened by offers of help from amateurs when those experts face an important problem they can't quickly solve.

Here the twin problems solved by the 'amateur' Dr Dawson come to mind : curing incurable SBE and finding the way around wartime science's inability to synthesis life-saving penicillin.

This is because Modernity sold the rest of us two related bills of goods : all problems are simple enough to solve but all problems are also too complex for amateurs to solve.

Modernity meant by this that all reality was made up of 'problems' that were far too complex for amateurs to solve but that were also simple to solve, given enough time, when considered by well-funded, well-paid experts who are shown their due deference.

Solutions dreamed up by untutored geniuses and amateurs threaten their income and status.

Dawson's clarion call of seeking 'Help from All' totally threatened their 'Help only from Experts' .....

Sunday, March 13, 2016

for powerful, offering charity to powerless far easier than ACCEPTING help from them

The powerful are a tight-fisted lot but they would far rather give charity to all than accept help from anyone

I wish to argue that two seemingly opposed notions (the powerful offering charity to the powerless and the powerful murdering the powerless) are actually very closely related.

Charity should always be, but rarely is, offered horizontally to equals : equal fellow human beings. Too often though, charity is only offered downwards to unequals (and always with the half conscious intent to remind everyone who is on top and who is on the bottom).

And it is always relatively easy to let unequals (life unworthy of a full life) die by neglect ---- or even to go out and directly murder them.

But when the 'powerful' (note well the scare quotes) accept help from the 'powerless', they are tacitly admitting that they both equally relatively powerless before the problem at hand, which is why they are sharing possible solutions in the first place.

And equals find it harder to murder each other.

This is just another way to restate the bald facts that Churchill's imperial milieu would literally rather lose to their fellow white Europeans, the Nazis, than treat the dark Indian sub continent as equals, equals united in defeating the Nazis by sheer weight of superior manpower numbers.

And that Churchill's scientific milieu would literally rather see Allied frontline soldiers die of infection than see the primitive little microbes (the darkies of biology) make life-saving penicillin naturally instead of seeing highly educated white Europeans making it by chemical synthesis.

In the Churchill tradition, only the American powerful were permitted to make and control the nuclear Manhattan Project : no darkies on this set, please.

By contrast, Henry Dawson's other Manhattan Project was all about inviting anyone and everyone in the world to find ways to make abundant wartime penicillin as quickly as possible.

With Dawson's Manhattan Project having everyone helping out, instead of  just a small elite, this forced the very reluctant Allies to give the resulting penicillin to all.

For when Help comes from All, it becomes much harder to refuse to allow the Hope of the results to be distributed to All : which is why the 'powerful' are so very reluctant to ask any help from the 'powerless'....

WWII : Suburban Lives Matter. More.

There is no evidence that WWII's 'Total War' efforts seriously held up ongoing research to find a cure for Polio.

Far from it.

No efforts then to temporarily sacrifice suburban WASP kids dying of "not a military priority" Polio, all to see more medical aid went to our unfaithful frontline troops afflicted with rear echelon VD.

As happened with inner city minority and immigrant kids also busy dying during WWII - from "not a military priority" SBE...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shaw, Pushkin & Melville : freely mixing fact and fiction

While novelists Melville (Moby Dick) and Pushkin (Eugene Onegin) are well known for mixing fact and non fiction in very close quarters, we don't usually accept that almost all playwrights do much the same.

George Bernard Shaw is very much the best known playwright in this regard.

That is because Shaw's (nominally non fictional) prefaces and stage directions describing the fictional characters' lives and the play's fictional locales were all very much longer than the scripts of his fictional plays.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mo going Po : Bing - Otis : Trying Tenderness

Can you actually hear the sound of modernity and postmodernity ?

I think you can, probably Rob Bowman thinks you can too.

To demonstrate, let me first direct you to YouTube where you can find about three dozen different versions of "Try a Little Tenderness".

Monday, February 8, 2016

LaPlace's modern A-Bomb -- Goldman's postmodern Penicillin

Vannevar Bush's famous wartime 'modern science' agency, the OSRD, was heavily involved in trying to control two Manhattan Projects - the well known one involving a highly successful effort to create The Bomb and the unknown one involving an unsuccessful effort to make synthetic penicillin.

Big Penicillin : Big Lie ?

If you've read one account as to how the Allied world moved to the mass production of natural penicillin in the early Spring of '43, you've read 'em all.

It goes roughly like this :
Alfred Richards of the OSRD-CMR , together with Chester Keefer of the NAS-COC, having together briskly proven the clinical efficacy of the new medication, now 'asked' the WPB to just as briskly move the drug into high production. They wanted the War Production Board to increase monthly output by an incredible 100,000% in a year's time, so that the Armed Forces' desperate needs could be met. Working hard together, (here cue 'hands across the water') the sweat, labour and ingenuity of American companies, scientists and workers soon achieved the impossible. (Here insert wild applause.)

In fact, left to their own devices and un-prodded by outside forces, these two scientists, together with their rubber stamp committees, would have polished the penicillin apple forever in civilian research settings far from the battlefront wounded  --- until Merck redeemed the honour of Man The Chemist and unleashed a patented, synthetic, version upon the world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wartime penicillin originally to be made by Worthy Few....for the Worthy Few

At first glance, it seems that wartime penicillin, to the American and British elites, was always first and foremost a secret race to be the first nation to secure the highly profitable postwar/worldwide patented monopoly on the world's best synthetic antibiotic.

And that only secondarily was penicillin part of an Allied effort to defeat the Axis and succour the ill.

This isn't true - it isn't even the half of it - the story is very darker than that.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why no numbers on British penicillin targets 1942-1944 ?

One hardly had to wait for academic articles, buried in obscure journals and published 7o years later, to find out the actual projected targets - in billions of units of penicillin by month, month by month, bandied about for the amount of penicillin American hoped to produce in 1943-1944.

Fermenting Hope, in a world feeling hopeless : Dr Dawson

Paradoxically, while passionately worried about our current global crisis, I chose instead to write about a global crisis from 75 years ago.

Penicillin, despite the Beltway

With apologies to Arthur Hailey and the actor later to play Scottie on Star Trek...

At first and second glance, a Canadian North Star passenger plane landing safely isn't very much of a news story.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fleming - not Florey - spurs American penicillin mass production !

It has been fashionable lately to discount the excessive credit given to Sir Alexander Fleming for bringing us penicillin, particularly in the period between 1944 and 1972.

The counter tendency is now to try to give too much credit to Sir Howard Florey, Fleming's supposed rival for penicillin glory.

Actually, these supposed rivals worked closely quite closely together on British government penicillin committees between 1942 and 1946, sharing a common - if perverted - vision to keep wartime penicillin 'secret, scarce and synthetic'.

growing hope in the depths of WWII, a handful of doctors defeat the Beltway to bring 'penicillin for all'

In early 1943, firmly under the coercive protocol control of elite doctors & scientists in the Beltway's OSRD-CMR and NAS-COC, wartime penicillin was all set to be added to the postwar list of moral calamities thrown up by the Allied effort.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mahoney uses penicillin 'which had been released to him for other purposes' to cure syphilis

Personally, I believe both published accounts of where exactly Dr John F Mahoney's team got the non-protocol-authorized penicillin to test his off the wall/ highly successful theory that penicillin could kill syphilis germs inside the body.

One account says  he liberated/stole some the CMR/COC penicillin granted to him with his assent that he would follow strict protocol and only study penicillin's cure rate against sulfa-fast gonorrhea.

Another account says says he grew his own crude penicillin (in my view, probably with help from Dr Gladys Hobby) to further his successful effort.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

If Future is knowable, simple, controllable - then we don't need immigrants and troublemakers

But if it is not -- if we face a potential global disaster in the near future with no sure way yet to resolve it -- then maybe we need the biggest possible of all 'Big Tents' : we need everyone's ideas and everyone's critique.

Particularly those of immigrants - for their often strikingly different take on a crisis (instead of our conventional same old same old) might be just what Dr Mother Nature ordered.

For do we really still believe that the Anglo Saxon scientific establishment (all on its own) could have won the last war, without the help of the foreign born, their children and native-born troublemakers ?

Is to dream !

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WWII penicillin : independent or institutional ?

On May 20th 1944, Dr Gladys Hobby writes to OSRD medical chief Dr A.N. Richards (wartime penicillin's real Penicillin Tsar), in effect to protest the largely successful efforts by his fellow institutionally oriented medical elite to use the excuse of wartime necessity to crush all remaining independent medical efforts.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Off the Grid" Penicillin

The bad things that happen when academics prefer easily obtainable secondary sources over hard-to-get primary accounts

A prolonged troll through the day to day, year by year, archival records of Washington's National Academy "Committee on Chemotherapeutic Agents" (COC) and Vannevar Bush's Office of Scientific Research & Development's "Committee for Medical Research" (CMR) is profoundly depressing.

And it leads one to sharply question the underlying - shared - thesis beneath nearly everything written on wartime penicillin to date.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Helen Elliot, Vassar '41, Dawson's H.E. ?

A Vassar graduate of the class of 1941, Helen Elliott, unfortunately died in the medical crossfire of late 1943, as the American therapeutic reforming elite struggled to regain control of their own personal take on the course of WWII.

This elite had recently come under attack from a handful of courageous doctors and industrialists questioning the moral compass of wartime penicillin as these therapeutic reformers had self-defined it.

Simply put the issue was this : was wartime penicillin to go on being distributed as the Nazis might have distributed it, or was it to now be distributed as the Atlantic Charter suggested it should be distributed ?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

when Science appeared to give definite answers, conservatives became scientists

Until the mid 1960s, the most reliable Republican Party or Conservative Party districts were university towns. Today they are the least.

What changed ?

Back in the early sixties, the soon-to-be-retiring elite of Modernity science , both physical and social, still gave forth the definite answers that social conservatives crave and in fact need, in order to remain sane.

So no wonder then that science was one of the preferred occupations for social conservatives.

MLK Day and Jonas bookmarked my Washington Archival trip

I got away from Washington DC and superstorm Jonas just in time ----all thanks to the kindness of many strangers!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thumbnail, Dawson Bio cover & title

Feb 1 2016 Update

Back again to my title .....
Dawson Bio cover & title

The inside Title Page :

Fermenting Hope

In a war-wearied world, divided by eugenic science into the 'worthy' few and the 'unworthy' many, Dr Dawson's homebrew penicillin was made by many and provided for all

Michael Marshall

Fermenting Hope PD

Halifax Canada


Previous JAN 27 2016  title change

I have come to prefer the title as "Growing Hope" .

Now the book cover has the word "Growing" above the image of Gladys Hobby's arms daily holding above her head a petri dish of blue-green penicillium mold and golden drops of penicillin juice, to inspire SBE patients with hope --- with the word "Hope" directly below.

The inside 'Title Page' :

Growing Hope

In the depths of WWII, a handful of doctors
defeat the Beltway to bring penicillin to all.

Michael Marshall
Blockheaded Publishing PD
Halifax Canada

The image is my rather blatant knockoff of the Atomic Manhattan Project's much more famous 'fungus' cloud.

Only my cover features another wartime Manhattan project, involving an actual fungus: the 700 two litre flasks of penicillium, raised in a major 'grow op', right inside the pristine-clean corridors of NYC's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

all blog posts in E-Book entitled IVSTAT

Decided, in case I die in an airplane crash en route to researching wartime penicillin in the archives of Washington DC, to put out a quick ebook of all my Ivstat posts to date.

Here is the link to the pdf ebook on Google Drive.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

elementary school arithmetic & the history of wartime penicillin

Every account of wartime penicillin is sure to flatly claim that supplies of penicillin for civilians greatly worsened between July and December 1943, after the WPB took charge of all American made penicillin and gave most of it to the Army.

Allied medical "therapeutic reformers" at war against Allied military doctors

The much stated reason for early official interest in working at all with fragile, scarce, expensive injected penicillin was because it might heal staph infections in big dirty battlefield wounds that the wonderfully cheap effective, stable and abundant oral Sulfa drugs couldn't defeat.

In fact, this was all sheer bull feathers.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Alexander Fleming's Death Panel : 1943-45

The advent of Obamacare has led conservative minds all over the Anglosphere to talk of its imaginary death panels, where elite male doctors would hold the power of medical life or death over the hapless female civilians before them.

But it was conservative (as in Republican & Conservative Party supporting) male elite doctors who first served on actual death panels during the later half of WWII, where they did indeed condemn hapless female civilians to life or death ----- based mostly on their imagined class or ethnicity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ezra Lozinski : Canadian 'Jewish penicillin' 1941

Canadians love to joke about 'Jewish Penicillin' but a historical might-have-been actually involved a Canadian Jewish doctor's pioneering efforts to make wartime penicillin at the same time similar pioneering efforts were going on in America (by his fellow McGill Med School classmate Henry Dawson) and in Britain with Florey.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Halifax & foreigners : in AND out

We all know that there are ports like Norfolk Virginia that are internationally known first as naval bases and as being very good at keeping most foreigners out and then there are immigration ports like New York internationally known first to be rather good at inviting some foreigners in.

Blog on biography writing : 1st person, Biographies : 3rd person

Like almost all blog writers, I tend to write my blog posts in the the first person - I am forced to, in fact, when I post about my present day mechanics in researching the biographies of people who died before I was even born.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Warlike national capitals

I am about to visit Washington DC and am again reminded that the suburbs around national capitals are always filled with some of their nation's top military facilities ---something few of us ever hear much about.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

medicine as an OSRD weapon of war goes unchallenged for 75 years

It should be seen as a bit of a paradox : America's OSRD (Office of Scientific Research & Development) the American war-only weapons-producing agency that brought us the A-Bomb, radar, Napalm & the proximity Fuse ---- also (supposedly) brought us life-saving penicillin.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

iPad Mini blogging

I am going to Washington DC (plus NJ, MD & VA) to do archival research later this month.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Canoeing across the UK's three east-west urban corridors

The UK is well known to be far taller than it is wide.

Actually it is surprisingly narrow in three places and correspondingly rather wide in three others.

It is almost as if the UK is made of plasticine and when it was pinched tight between Bristol and London, Liverpool and Hull and the river Clyde and the Firth of Forth, the areas immediately north and south of those narrow waists expanded into wide hips.

Viewing the UK at night from space reveals that the three narrow waists are almost one big smear of lights from interconnected big urban centres while the three wide hips are darkish with only scattered lights and hence particularly underpopulated.

This is why I say the north-south urban corridor in the UK runs through only three real mega cities( London to Manchester to Glasgow) because each of those three cities are the the biggest city in its own east-west urban corridor.

So adventurers love to canoe from Liverpool to Hull, from Glasgow to Falkirk, from Bristol to Reading ,from the west coast to the east coast (or vice versa) overland by water : starting at a big estuary, along rivers and canals to a big estuary on the other side.

Maybe a short portage or two or three along the way.

Certainly communities located in the wide hips have a hard go being connected east-west, mostly because they don't have the flat terrain that two linked east-west big river-estuary watersheds naturally provide.

Some of the British rebels running their own DIY penicillin ops during WWII were located in the wide hip areas off the main corridors of political, commercial and academic influence, hence my interest in what might seem arcane spatial geography.....

Academics citing political claims as factual

Don't get me wrong : an academic citation pointing to a statement made by a politician is a citation to a fact : that a certain politician claimed a certain something on a certain date at a certain place.

But it is not a proof that anything the politician said in reference to the external world is in anyway true.

This may (or may not) shock you about politicians and truth-telling.

It might shock (some of) you about the credulity of academics.

Friday, January 1, 2016

wartime penicillin's "Corridors of Power "

Washington/Baltimore through Philadelphia to New York City and onto Boston.

London through Oxford (University) to Birmingham to Manchester and onto Glasgow.

Detroit/Windsor (via London Ontario) to Toronto to Ottawa via Kingston (Queens University) onto Montreal.

Narrow inter-city transportation corridors connecting a linear series of big metropolitan cities, each with massive demographic, industrial, financial, media and academic power --- in the formal sense of the geographers.

As well as the site of the intimately closely knit exclusive 'corridors of power', aka today's 'Beltway', in the more informal sense of lobbyists and journalists....