Friday, April 1, 2016

rarity among Penicillin pioneers, Henry Dawson avoids the "S" word

I have never found a single instance when the first doctor to use penicillin to save a human life, Henry Dawson, ever said that 'further lifesaving with this wonder drug must first await the development of synthetic penicillin'.

Odd that, because that is what those other two penicillin pioneers, Alexander Fleming and Howard Florey, always gave as their excuse for their relative clinical inaction with wartime penicillin.

Years after Dawson's premature death, a member of his team was still publishing scientific articlestouting the potential superiority of impure natural penicillin over that of 100% pure penicillin whether natural or synthetic.

Dawson seemed to have acted as he did because he felt that the fungus, who had been making penicillin for tens of millions of years, might well have evolved a quicker easier cheaper method of doing so than whatever even huge teams of the world's best chemists could eke out synthetically after only a few years research.

He was of course right --- seventy five years on, we humans still can't make penicillin one thousandth as cheaply as the invisibly small little fungal factories can.

Humbling indeed for human modernist hubris -- and highly prescient of Dawson...

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