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...

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