Saturday, August 31, 2013

Superboard superdumb superbad

The CUPE union in Nova Scotia is right to raise an alarm over calls from two of the province's three visible registered parties to have a single Halifax based health board run all the hospitals in the rural part of the province.

Will the whole damn world, one day, be run out of one office at the UN ?

The disease of giantism and the view that bigger must mean better administration still has as many admirers today as it did in 1941 during the era (error ?) of big empires.

But Nova Scotian unionists have hardly been consistent on this issue.

When the NDP (union-supported) government tried to move some government jobs out of Halifax , to de-centralize some of these good-paying and stable jobs, unofficial blowback by union members crippled the project.

It maybe be something in union-brand Kool-aid, but sadly, union leaders would rather cut their own baby's throat than ever criticize their memberships' attitudes.

There is union democracy and there is courage and sometimes, the two must mix.....

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The smallest 'small school' has no permanent school building at all

My small school proposals seem to be too radical for most in this inert little province by the restless sea.

I discovered this when I went before a Nova Scotia public inquiry  and suggested that public schools follow the example of the province's universities.

Our two biggest, Dalhousie and St Mary's both moved about a fair bit before settling in their current physical locales and even then their university centre could move about within the campus lands.

Dalhousie , for example ,has been at its present location for over a century but its original building ,the Forrest Building, is now but the Dental School portion of this now immense university.

But from locale to locale, building to building, Dal has kept its name and institutional history.

But close the present building of the Burlington Elementary School because it is far too big for just twelve students and the school nd its history disappears along with it.

I suggested to the public inquiry that instead of killing that school's institutional history (and link to the present students' grandparents own school days) stone dead by busing all the kids to a big new consolidated school thirty miles away, why not house the same school in a new locale - the local fire hall's upstairs meeting room for example.

My wife, Rebecca, happily attended a public taxpayer financed school that rented space in an Antigonish County church basement and she has no signs of physical or mental abuse as a result.

But the public commissioner was left unmoved by my comments - to him and his ilk, schools aren't about learning but about real estate.

To be fair - the very varied public (Dartmouth area) audience before him felt no differently - I heard no murmur of support behind me as I sometimes get when I make bold suggestions at public meetings.

British public ( ie private) schools feel as I do and are content to rent ---- maybe that is why they are more noted for their students' successes than for the quality of their plumbing and heating .....

The Small Party : North America's first and most radical 'green' Party

I seem to recall meeting Elizabeth May in the summer of 1979 at an environmental fair on Halifax's Garrison Grounds just after the 1979 federal election.

She was nonplussed by the total lack of reference to any environmental issue in the election from any party and talked about forming some sort of party that would.

A few months later she did just that : THE small PARTY ran almost a dozen candidates - all but two in the Maritimes, Elizabeth among them.

I was still an NDPer (democratic socialist) then but rapidly becoming disillusioned.

I catch the allusion to "Small is Beautiful" and heartily agreed: I wanted Nova Scotia to cede from Canada and go its small way alone.

Still do.

Seeing how all the huge mega-corporations and vaulting political empires have happily co-opted the word "green" , I wonder now if the move to the Green Party label was the right one.

It doesn't seem offensive enough now, as a name.

Rupert Murdoch can see himself saying he is pro-green but never saying that he is pro-smallness.

He'd rather kill himself first.

Maybe "The small Party" label needs to be brought back out of cold storage and ran past the Nova Scotia voters once again.....

I propose to a (book) editor.... in an elevator

Clutching my manuscript to my heaving chest (insert bodice here) I got down on one knee and said to her , "This Manhattan Project is from Venus ---- and so are most of your customers."

"So enough already on any more books about Manhattan Projects that kill. This wartime Manhattan P. saved lives : its all about life and love and the whole nine months."

"Listen to your mother, she says you won't even be here if it wasn't for penicillin : cheap, abundant, natural, non-patented penicillin."

"Now does that sound like how Big Pharma normally operates ?

Yeah, exactly --- this time, despite America being at war, Doctor Mom was in charge and she saw to it that it was done up right."

"If this book proposal has legs - and I think it does , try to think of those legs as being shapely, shaved and belong to an avid reader of character-driven narratives ."

"Besides, market-wise, isn't it long overdue for a Good News Story to come out of WWII's Bad News War ?"

"Give it a read and then get back to me before the bidding war gets heavy -----  'cause, baby, this here book project is all about peace, love and understanding...."

May the small, like the Big, always be with us....

A blog that celebrates the small, in a world that drinks the Kool-Aid of Bigness ...

We certainly don't need a new blogger celebrating the Big : the world already has seven billion mouths doing that daily.

The Big are in absolutely no danger of disappearing, certainly not from our culture and not even as a result of rapid changes in the global environment.

The small also are hardly in danger of disappearing in the world's rapidly changing environmental situation.

In fact, when the environment suddenly changes they always do much better than bigger beings : always have and always will.

But culturally, the small are very much a collection of Rodney Dangerfields : never getting anywhere near the respect they deserve.

As microbe beings too small for us to see with our naked eyes, they keep this whole biological ball of wax afloat : without them the world would be a barren chunk of rock.

Small but visible species of plants and animals are the next layer of beings that help make this rock a nice place to live for us, those human parasites at the topper-most top of the whole food , air and water chain.

Within the human species and culture, 'small' humans (aka the poor, tired and huddled) still tend to be treated with general indifference.

Small places and institutions are still quickly dismissed as yesterday's entities.

This blog , by contrast, is devoted to reminding us of the comforting safety factor that comes with the diversity and flexibility of a world with many small beings and entities all exploring different options.

It seeks also to remind us of the danger of putting all our intellectual eggs in a few Big (tired) baskets as we face a rapidly changing world.

And  it seeks to remind us of the sheer joy we get out of being immersed in an incredible variety of experience.

And it intends to warn us of the danger of returning to being gray-suited citizens of a few unitary-minded empires that all look and act and feel alike as they march eagerly towards their environmental doom....

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The irony of 1945's twin triumphs ...

1945 was , on any account, an extraordinary year, not the least for its twin scientific triumphs.

At the time, it was almost universally held that the Man-made Bomb was the way of an atomic future so bright we'd have to wear shades .

By contrast, 1945's new Microbe-made medicine (natural penicillin) was viewed as but a temporary anomaly, a dusty throw back to the outdated caldron practises of medieval midwives.

But more than a half century later we are no longer so sure of all of this.

Atomic energy has not at all fulfilled its early promise.

Meanwhile, microbiology and biotechnology (descendants of 1945's natural-produced penicillin) have far outshot their 1945 rival, synthetic chemistry.

So today, with 20/20 hindsight, while 1945 can still feel like the apogee of the Modern age,it is also revealed as its very nadir.

Because 1945 is now seen as the birthday of our present post-Modern age.

In which case, Henry Dawson's twin follies of advocating on behalf of small individuals and on behalf of small microbes can be seen as promoting a distinguishing hallmark of postmodernity.

For few of us, under the age of eighty, devote much energy these days to replacing our current rainbow of many small cultures with a return to yesterday's dreary unitary monoculture of constipated WASP-dom.....

Social Darwinism turns Peace into Undeclared War...

The attributes of the Age of the Big (Social Darwinism Mk I) makes the idea of contrasting it with the concept of the War of the Big (Social Darwinism Mk II) a moot point.

This is because the Social Darwin idea of reducing all Life to an unceasing, total, struggle for life or death means that only a formal declaration on paper could separate Darwinian War from Darwinian Peace.

It was always assumed , without much proof, that in this struggle the big would  inevitably triumph over the small and then the ever bigger would do likewise over the merely 'big' .

By contrast ,Henry Dawson championed the small all his life - it must have come almost naturally to him, with his coming from a Canadian province that was increasingly viewed as too small to be relevant to Canadian values.

But he also noticed in his scientific investigations that while the big did thrive in stable circumstances, the small could still at least survive in hidden niches.

But in non-stable times, the big (over-extended) broke up,  while the small (insured against normal hard times) took it all in stride.

Rather than modern science quickly dismissing Life's small as just part of evolution's dusty, distant beginnings, he felt they should give the small a second glance - and a second chance.

He extended this in the 1930s to those judged chronically ill and second rate and then, in the war years , to those American young people with SBE who were judged to be 'life unworthy of expensive medical care during a military crisis' .

Modern science had no time for his theory - his championing  of the small was viewed as a damning folly from a medical scientist with an otherwise worthy medical career.

But post modernity science is largely shaped around the concept of reality's inherent complexity and diversity : admitting that reality will always consist of the mixing together of large and small phenomena and large and small beings.

In this long view, Dawson's folly begins to look quite prescient ...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wartime Manhattan's Projects : big Little Boy versus the tiny ampoule that saved little Patty Malone

The Little Boy atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima was a very Big Bomb indeed : 5000 kilograms , 300 cm long, by 70 cm wide and 70 cm deep.

Long and thin : hence Little Boy.

 Big Science needed tens of thousands of workers to build it.

By contrast, the tiny ampoule of natural penicillin that saved the life of  little baby Patty Malone was only 5 grams in weight, .7cm by .7 cm by 3 cm in size.

It was thus 100 times shorter in length and width and thickness, though it too was long and thin in appearance.

 And since its density was also surprisingly similar to that of Little Boy, it appropriately weighed 5 grams : a million times less (100 x 100 x 100 = 1 million).

Small science indeed.

Particularly when we recall that natural penicillin is actually made in a fungus factory that weighs about 70 pico grams (pico : one trillionth of a gram !) .

That is about a billion trillion times less the weight of what it would require for humanity to  make the basic machinery and basic chemicals for chemists to synthesize penicillin.

The fungus only requires a bit of dirty water and a bit of decaying organic debris.

America's big bombers carried both the Little Boy bomb and the ampoules of penicillin : one went off to Hiroshima, the other also went all over the world  to save lives.

 However its first mercy run was from Brooklyn New York to Macon Georgia, to save Anne Shirley Carter.

A mighty big plane and a mighty long journey for such a small little ampoule but if any taxpayer complained, they were very careful not to do it publicly.

Could any two projects - anywhere - anytime - have been more different ?

Dawson's penicillin 1940-1945 : made in the Public Domain , FOR the Public Domain

Howard Florey's penicillin 1940-1945, by way of pointed contrast, was Pure penicillin for Purely military use only.

He believed that penicillium were tiny ancient life  and so , by definition , linear progressive Evolution's "Yesterday's Men" .

He was sure civilized scientific Man was bound to make penicillin better and cheaper than some slimy mold in a sort of  witch's caldron .

But, in fact , chemists actually needed hundreds of millions of dollars - in 1940s dollars - together with tens of thousands of tons of structural and stainless steel  to make a whole series of chemical factories, just to get started on making penicillin.

All those big plants, together with lots of staff, a whole lot of energy and many corrosive solvents were Man's way of making penicillin.

They needed to be build expensively strong in order to safely apply high pressure and high & cold temperature over and over in many steps.

All this to replicate what a incredibly tiny fungus cell (sixty pico grams in mass) could produce at ordinary temperatures and ordinary pressures out of a little dirty water and a bit of decaying organic material.

That tiny fungus factory weighed about one billion trillion times less than all of the factories needed to make the basic chemicals that went into the final penicillin synthetic factory.

So if you thought that perhaps the tiny fungus could do the job better and cheaper, then you were with Dawson.

Now, just as how you viewed the possibility of the continuing viability of small beings coloured the type of penicillin factory you preferred, it seemed to also colour who you thought the penicillin should help.

So, Florey: big factory penicillin for big armies only ; Dawson : small factory penicillin for small people everywhere.....

Crude Penicillin and Bacterial Transformation : two neologisms of Henry Dawson

Henry Dawson was far from a wordsmith but he did coin two neologisms that have survived in today's scientific and historical lexicon.

One was "bacterial transformation" (a form of HGT, horizontal gene transfer -- basically non-Darwinian inheritance) and the other was "crude penicillin".

To explain this latter term is is best to recognize it is really a term of scientific and political polemics.

Let us imagine a British Empire in the early 1940s, badly hurting a time of war because it had refused to accept a fact known for at least two centuries.

That fact was that the most natural , most versatile and cheapest way to solve the naval and merchant ship scurvy crisis was with a good supply of citrus fruit kept on board.

Marshalled against this fact discovered by James Lind was an array of louder, better educated and greedier voices.

What they were telling the government and the media and future historians was that Britain's dying sailors must simply be patient.

In its own sweet time an expensive synthetic vitamin C was sure to emerge, fully patented, from one of the nation's chemical firms.

One expensively patented , tasteless , pill would solve the human daily needs for vitamin C - as would other patented pills for all our daily food intake.

We needn't waste time away from our desks on meals when a glass of water and a big handful or two of pills would solve the problem.

Against this chemical boasting would be an array of people saying that they looked forward to meals - perhaps even more than sex and certainly far more than they looked forward to work.

Others would point out that citrus fruit and vitamin C rich vegetables are found world wide - are both cheap and abundant - a security of supply issue.

They would further point out that the deadly delay in solving this sea-going crisis for the Empire was simply down to greed and ambition.

The delay was down to some ambitious scientists seeking the glory for having synthesized something Mother Nature already provided and to some greedy chemical companies wanting a profitable patent to exploit.

These claims against patented vitamin C pills are so damning  a master scientific polemist would be called upon to defend Chemistry.

A scientific polemist like Howard Florey because he, too, was a bit of a neologism creator : he was the first person to talk about impure and pure penicillin, for example.

An orange ,he could point out, could potentially be a dangerous source of vitamin C because it was an impure  source of the needed vitamin (in the sense that vitamin C only made up a tiny fraction of one percent of the orange by weight).

In a 1940s culture where the middle class had more education than common sense, this would be effective arguing : everyone wanted cleanliness and purity.

Henry Dawson immediately caught onto this "Only I know how to make pure safe penicillin" line of attack from Florey's very first article on penicillin and quickly mounted a rebuttal.

And he did so in the august pages of the New York Times on May 6th 1941.

In effect, he said an orange can be one of four things, as regards to being an safe source of vitamin C.

It could be unsafe because both the orange and its vitamin C are potentially dangerous.

It could be safe because both the orange and its vitamin C are harmless to consume.

It could be unsafe because vitamin C is potentially dangerous, perhaps in larger quantities.

It could be unsafe because the orange itself was potentially toxic.

The only thing to do , as always , was less talk and more experiments.

He tested impure penicillin (penicillium juice) upon himself and upon some human patients and found it perfectly safe.

He boldly called his successful medicine "crude penicillin" --- naturally made penicillin happily bathing its its naturally produced impure bath.

it was a medicine made by microbes and offered up to all, free in the Public Domain : thus meeting Florey's subtle corporate agenda head-on.

Ironically, years later, it was revealed that pure penicillin itself  was potentially unsafe (unlike the rest of the harmless penicillium juice) because when pure it can be given in large enough amounts to result in sudden penicillin allergy deaths !

Pure members of the aryan races might still believe they can only survive on pure penicillin and pure vitamin C but the rest of this polyglot world still likes to take its daily nourishment 'crude' , dining around the table with family and friends.

It hasn't seemed to harm the seven billions of us so far....

Are the small just a tiny part of the Modern past or a vital part of the Postmodern future ?

Two hundred years from the event, historians will be telling classrooms that when it comes to exam time, they should remember that WWII boiled down to just one issue.

One - scientific - issue.

Were the small to be considered just a tiny part of Modernity's dusty past or were they to be a vital part of the (postmodern/multi-coloured) future ?

In early 1939 , on one side was virtually all of the world's educated.

On the other, was Henry Dawson : and that was his folly.

By late 1945 , Henry Dawson was dead and gone and so his current opinion was irrelevant.

But many of the world's younger educated had moved - under the course of many events - one begun by Henry himself - to doubt their parents' and grantparents' position on the matter.

For if the smartest pundits of the war's end were sure that 1945 represented the apogee of modern bigness , by about 1978 leading commentators are just as sure it actually represented Modernity's nadir and the birth of our present day Postmodernity.

But Dawson's all-out efforts to defend the small under the assault of WWII values caused his premature death, so he wasn't around in his mid-eighties to enjoy his vindication.

That to was his folly ; or his eternal glory ...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hating the handicapped isn't a crime in the Canada of Henry Dawson's birth

When an Ontario mom living a few doors away wrote a letter urging a couple euthanize their autistic grandchild, the general public was outraged.

 But not the police ---- or the academics in this area of the law.

Apparently hating the handicapped is not a hate crime in Canada : but hating Jews, Blacks , Orientals, Catholics or Gays definitely is.

Despite this mile-wide gap in current law, it won't hurt to remind Canadians that Hitler started off by killing the handicapped and only moved onto killing Jews and Gypsies later.

Which is why Henry Dawson was so focused on protecting handicapped individuals, deemed "4Fs of the 4Fs",  from the baneful neglect of Allied governments seemingly intent on matching the Nazis' policies in a muted "me too", step by step ......

In moral terms, WWII boils down to one simple - scientific - question : are the small a part of the future, or just of the past ?

 G F Hegel, the 19th century's most influential philosopher, was famous for claiming that history wasn't an endless cycles of birth, maturity and death laced with infinite variations , as people had always observed.

Instead, he ventured that history has a single purpose and a single goal  - together with a linear unbreakable path upwards to that goal  - linear, unidirectional "Progress" with a capital "P".
Herbert Spencer and a thousand others said that , scientifically, Progress of this sort actually existed, wasn't just an intellectual debating point, and that Darwin's Evolution showed not just why it happened but why it had to happen.

Species and cultures and societies and businesses and empires started out young as small ,weak and foolish and just mightier and mightier and wiser and wider as they got older and older.

The small were useful - yesterday - but now they were just speed bumps in the way of Progress.

Tomorrow had no place for them.

This was the general tenor of the Modern Age between the 1870s and the 1960s.

Many people made moral arguments against this claim - but morality carried far less weight in this age than did science.

Henry Dawson also made moral arguments against this scientific central dogma , but where he seemed downright foolish to his colleagues was that he also said that he had scientific evidence - proof - that this dogma wasn't actually confirmed out there,  in the real world.

A man of deeds ,not words, his scientific articles cut little ice : that had to wait for someone like Stephen Jay Gould a half century later.

By then  ,of course, Gould was writing to the half converted.

But what had made the world change its mind ?

Blame on the events of that momentous year 1945.

1945 was both the apogee and nadir of the Modern Age.

Apogee with one project from Manhattan that assembled a scientific team almost as big and strong as The Bomb's explosion itself.

Nadir with another project from Manhattan that had a scientific team almost as small and as weak as those that manufactured the cure and almost as small and as weak as the intended patients.

Robert Oppenheimer led one team ; Henry Dawson the other.

Time is starting to tell as to who ultimately had the greater impact.....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

War medicine was from Mars, Social medicine from Venus ?

The very word "war" medicine seems to stir something vaguely Mars-like, deep within the soul of the chickenhawk doctor or scientist.

Successfully conceiving ,in an academic lab at the University of  Chicago, a way to reduce combat deaths from shock seems to transport one almost up to the frontline evacuation hospitals, directly under hostile fire.

Being there, doing it, roughing it , all sweaty and virile-like : medical science with the smell of the locker room and the men's shower stall about it.

By contrast, what can any doctor - any real doctor - actually do about those dying of subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE) ?

These hopeless cases shouldn't even be occupying an acute hospital bed - particularly in wartime.

They should be handled by women - nurses - in a secondary hospice or in a palliative care situation at home.

And arthritis 'care' - not really medicine is it ? Helping impoverished old ladies too frail to bend over properly to get dressed and to do their toiletry.

Again - women's work. A job for personal care assistants and social work case workers. Social medicine.

But (Martin) Henry Dawson persevered , hung on in there , all through the war, treating those chronically ill with arthritis and the very 4Fs of the 4Fs, those dying of SBE .

Perhaps because he was that rarity : an American medical researcher in 1940 who already had a stirling war record in the front lines (in the medical corp, infantry and artillery), with a medal for valour and two serious war wounds to back him up.

The Military Cross winner from Venus, as it were ......

the Good , as well as the Bad , gets intensified under the pressures of wartime

In her time - during and after WWI  - nurse Edith Cavell was as famous as Oscar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg and all the other WWII "Righteous Among the Nations" combined.

She devoted her life to nursing, mostly in Belgium though she was British herself, and didn't see why WWI should interrupt her practise of trying to save all patients, regardless of whether they were German, Belgian or Allied.

She was shoot however , by a German firing squad, for the war crime of helping Allied soldiers to escape the brutal German occupation forces enslaving Belgium.

Britain has claimed it had gone to war precisely to defend the right of neutral little Belgium not to be over run and then brutally enslaved by her bigger neighbours.

But many in her political and military elite thought it was right and just for the Germans to shoot her - they would have done the same - in fact did the same to Mata Hari.

World public opinion decidedly thought otherwise and her death became a big factor in turning neutral America to the Allied cause and for inspiring tens of thousands of youth in all the Allied countries to immediately join up as medical workers or soldiers.

News of her execution hit North American newspaper readers October 16th 1915.

It immediately inspired Martin Henry Dawson to become a medical orderly oversea.

He subsequently changed his life career plans and became a doctor.

On October 16th 1940, exactly 25 years later to the day he entered the medical world, Dawson ushered in one of those sort of earth-shaking events that only happens once every few centuries.

He gave two dying young men some of that elixir of life, natural penicillin, and so began our present Age of Antibiotics.

Neither man was Belgian, but for Dawson the principal was still the same : the small were being crushed beneath the interests of the big and he was as determined to fight that outrage as hard in WWII as he had in WWI.

These two men were being neglected by a medical community and drug company industry that had become focused on profitably war medicine for the 1As of the world , not on 'socialistic' social medicine to aid the 4Fs of the 4Fs.

Dawson saw that solely a military effort to defeat the Nazis or the Huns was never going to be enough, not if there was no moral battle behind it.

Sinking to the level of the Prussian military mindset, in WWI London or in WWII New York  he saw was no way to win the hearts and minds of neutral nations - or even for retaining the loyalty of one's own citizens.

So, no Dawson did not go forth into battle on behalf of Mars in this second world war as he had eventually in the first.

He stayed home and treated only people too '4F' to ever be useful for military duty or even for the fast pace and long hours of munitions factory work.

He worked on the Venus side of Manhattan exclusively and his direct war impact was limited to filling the hearts of people all over the world with renewed hope.

But i believe that his efforts saved far more lives ,and probably won the war quicker, than The Bomb ever did.....

to RAMZI YOUSEF : a loving rebuttal

When asked why he hoped his 1993 bomb inside Manhattan's World Trade Center would kill all of the 50,000 people at the complex, the chief planner of the attack, Ramzi Yousef, said the planned massive carnage was partly to avenge the 250,000 Japanese killed by the bombs of the Manhattan Project.

It is true that the current wartime image of Manhattan does present a particularly Mars like character.
Pre-1945 Manhattan was not just the birth place of the technology that fuelled the Cold War atomic arsenals, it was also the financial and intellectual home of Eugenics - which culminated in The Holocaust.

But Manhattan is Janus-like as we all are, as the whole world is.

Within it are found big and small, good and bad, Eugenics and Emma Lazarus : indeed Venus, as well as Mars.

Venus even in, particularly in, times of war - seemingly the natural home of Mars.

Martin Henry Dawson's Manhattan Project , to liberate natural penicillin from corporate greed and eugenic medicine so that it could bring succour to the poor, the tired and the huddled in a war-torn world, saved far more lives than The Bomb ever lost.

If  Ramzi Yousef had only known the full (in the round /the 360 degree) story of Manhattan, he might have thought twice about planning that 1993 bomb.

Much the same goes for those who planned 9/11 and those planning future assaults on Manhattan.

I am not a Manhattanite and reluctant to blow someone other city's horn unasked : but I simply feel that the world - and that included Manhattanites - must know more of the long ago wartime days when 'Manhattan was from Venus' , as well as from Mars....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Manhattanites , "brag about your country"

It really shouldn't be my job to blow wartime Manhattan's horn.

Joe Howe, the Bluenosers' favourite son, always advised his countryman to brag about their country :

Brag of your country.  When I am abroad, I brag of everything 
Nova Scotia is, has  or can produce and when they beat me at 
everything else, I say, 'How high do your tides rise?

Don't let the 9/11 plotters define wartime Manhattan to the world 
for you.

Admit The Bomb and wartime eugenic inclinations , but also talk up Henry Dawson and Patty Malone , Dante Colitti and Penicillin.

Take a bow ....

Arabic translation of "Hyssop in a time of Cedar" ?

I sure hope so. Many translations. But since Arabic was the common language of the 9/11 plotters, it have been nice if they had known a little more about the city they are so determined to destroy.

They only saw Manhattan as "coming from Mars", as the birthplace of  Eugenics and the Atomic War.

This is all true --- but only a partial truth.

Like all the world - like all of us - Manhattan is truly janus-like.

Within it, good and bad live in commensality, as does war and peace, love and aggression and big and small : all dine together at a common table.

I want to show the 9/11 plotters and their would-be successors that wartime Manhattan also "came from Venus".

 That the borough was also home to Emma Lazarus's Golden Door and to successful efforts to ensure that wartime's life-saving penicillin was made available to all the world's tired, poor and huddled 4Fs - regardless of race, colour ,creed or gender.

If a copy of my book makes even one future would-be plotter pause and re-consider, it will be worth it....

Henry Dawson, Champion of the Second Chance ... and the Second Glance

Manhattan-based doctor (Martin) Henry Dawson championed the smallest, weakest and poorest of beings all his life.

On one hand, they were human beings, such as the institutionalized chronically ill at Goldwater Hospital.

Or discarded young people , dying needlessly from subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE).

In both cases, he wanted to give them a second chance at a near normal life in what was, after all, the famed City of the Second Chance.

On the other hand, sometimes his focus was upon microbe beings, creatures about whom it can't really be said that he wanted to ensure their continued survival - he felt they did that well enough on their own !

Instead, he merely wanted all of us to take a Second Glance at just how well these incredibly tiny ,delicate, immobile sacs of water managed against extremities of physical conditions and the potent threat of the human immune system and modern medicine.

Starting in the 1920s, he pioneered studies of their survival techniques such as HGT, Quorum Sensing, Molecular Mimicry and Biofilms : still cutting edge science even today, eighty years later.

His subtle point was that if these, the smallest of the small, can manage survival so well than perhaps small human beings and small human nations can also manage equally well, if we just let them live rather than trying to enslave and kill them in the name of  a Progress that must always be Bigger , to be Better.

The Allied governments  never one to miss a chance to match the Axis in moral turpitude , wanted wartime penicillin to remain a secret available only for the 1As - "Penicillin from New York's Cold Spring Harbour's Eugenics lab" , as it were.

The tired, poor huddled 4Fs

Dawson was equally bull-headed in wanting to see the Nazis combatted morally as well as militarily, by demonstrating just how well we looked after our tired poor and huddled 4Fs,  even during a Total War : "Penicillin from New York's Emma Lazarus", as it were.

Janus-like Manhattan tried both approaches at first ,  very  strongly favouring the eugenic approach, until a few good Manhattanites rose up in protest.

Then wartime Manhattan was revealed to also come from the Venus of love and peace as well as from the Mars of anger and war.

Finally ... a Good News Story from the Bad News War.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Now I am become Hope, Healer of the Nations

Thanks to John Gray I can say, in a sideways allusion to his famous book, that wartime Manhattan displayed both a Mars and a Venus side to its Janus-like character and everyone instantly knows what I mean.

This is a lot easier than saying Manhattan have a Social medicine and War medicine side to its character and then have to spend a few thousand words and a long history lesson, to explain what I really mean.

Similarly the made-up quotation that titles this blog post is another sideways allusion --- this time to a very well known quote about Manhattan's best known wartime Project : the death-dealing Atomic Bomb.

Robert Oppenheimer, a Manhattan born and raised boy himself, defined the Bomb's nature (and America's newfound military and diplomatic power) by intoning a famous quotation from Hindu scripture :
"Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds"
Manhattan never itself intoned those words or the words at the top of this post - it can't .

But poetically, we can at least imagine that between 1943 and 1945 it did intone both....

Remembering when Manhattan was from Venus

"Now I am become Hope, Healer of Nations."

Why Manhattan choses to only remember its death-dealing activities during WWII is quite beyond me.

Just because that is all that the 9/11 bombers chose to recall , is no reason to emulate their example.

(Ie, the 911 planners chose only to focus upon the Mars side of Manhattan's Janus-like face.)

Yes , Columbia University in Manhattan ( along with a dozen other sites in greater NYC) was a key part of the best known wartime Manhattan Project, the militarization of the death-dealing atom.

In fact, the key part : because Columbia perfected gaseous diffusion, the method used on all sides to produce all the megadeath weapons of the Cold War.

Native Manhattanite, Robert Oppenheimer, seemingly sealed that image of Manhattan for all time, when he intoned after the first atomic blast, "Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds."

But Columbia University in wartime was also home to the other - the unknown - Manhattan Project :  ensuring that the life-sustaining properties of natural penicillin were freely available to all , at a low price, and during the war years when it was so badly needed.

Henry Dawson did not discover natural penicillin, but he was key in insisting it be widely produced during WWII, rather than a half dozen lacklustre years later.

Far more fundamentally, he was key in de-militarizing wartime penicillin, making it not just a secret medicine available only to the Allied front line, but something than people of all nations, races, creeds and genders felt they had a right to obtain when they were dying, without the cost bankrupting their families.

It remains to this day, seventy five years later, that rarity : an inexpensive safe lifesaver that has never been patented and over-priced.

The dying Dawson did all this because in an era when Bigger was Better and the small were just impediments to Progress, he so strongly believed in their right to existence and happiness.

From his tiny lab in upper Manhattan he radiated a message of hope to a troubled world.

Like Lady Liberty herself, he reminded the world of the Venus side to Janus Manhattan....

Wartime Manhattan : from Mars ... or from Venus ?

If I might be permitted to gently chide the citizens of Manhattan, may I suggest that they had done very little, themselves, to balance the horrific wartime image of their city created by being tagged as the place that 'birthed' the atomic bomb and its potential destruction of the entire world.

To the 911 bombers, it is the best known image of the borough.

(And by the way, it is only men, like the bosses of the best known wartime Manhattan Project , who talk about 'birthing the bomb' and think of naming it 'Little Boy'.)

Woman know better.

They actually do birth children and know that a bomb isn't a baby.

But little Patty Malone was a baby - and it was only the fearless challenging spirit of the native born Manhattanite that saved her life ... when a heartless government refused to help.

So, People of Manhattan, take a bow.

True, it was only men that did all the heavy lifting in saving this particular child, but I am convinced that her story moved millions of Doctor Moms to demand that their men get off the sofa and start making penicillin for real, right away.

In particular, her story moved one Doctor Mom with the real power to move mountains of inertia : Mae Smith.

She was the wife of the boss of Brooklyn-based Pfizer,  John L Smith.

In the summer of 1943, his firm was best positioned (culturally) in the world to make the needed penicillin ---- all by its self.

But he was a very cautious and frugal man and he refused to do the right thing, rather than the financially safe and lucrative thing.

Until his wife reminded him, once again, that Dr Henry Dawson had always insisted that their eldest daughter would have remained alive, if only penicillin had been earnestly produced, not long after its discovery.

Learning of little Patty Malone plucked from death's door touched Smith's heart ; finally made Dawson's claim seem real to John L.

In a few short months, Pfizer was indeed producing enough penicillin for all those in the world dying of susceptible infections.

Abundant amounts of Pfizer Penicillin created an opportunity for America to practise influential penicillin diplomacy , replacing Pax Britannia with Pax Americana.

Britain and its Dominions had the most moral capital, from standing all alone against Hitler for years, and it had the moral first claim on penicillin.

But for want of a price of a single additional bomber squadron for Butcher Harris, the Conservative Party-dominated British government threw all that moral capital away, handed it over to the Americans on a platter, gratis.

That price, of just one bomber squadron among many, would have given Glaxo a Pfizer's sized plant, months before Pfizer.

By contrast, WWII is usually seen as the process that finally killed the hopes of the New Deal.

But I argue, that the New Deal's final act was actually its finest hour.

Britain's Ministry of Supply set the amount of penicillin it wanted produced during the war years to just be enough ( barely) for front line troops.

It forbade the bigger colonies like India to make their own penicillin (postwar export market considerations dominated official thinking.)

The supply amounts set by the gutless Dominions perfectly reflected Britain's niggardly attitude to the needs of their own civilians and the civilians of the occupied lands.

By contrast, in May 1943, one of the last big New Deal organizations created, the American WPB (War Production Board) , set the amounts of American penicillin it wanted produced so high that it could easily supply America ( military and civilian) and most of the world besides.

Thirties style "Social medicine" concerns had finally won out over the Forties "War medicine" niggardliness.

Henry Dawson's long, lonely defence of heightened social medicine in a time of war against an enemy who didn't believe in it even in peacetime had finally borne fruit : now America was preparing to combat the Nazis morally , as well as just militarily.

Venus Manhattan was in the driver's seat, along with Mars Manhattan ....

Saturday, August 17, 2013

To 911 Bombers, Manhattan was from Mars - Henry Dawson's story could have reminded them it was also from Venus

We must alway remember that there was an other Manhattan Project during WWII ; unfortunately one that remains almost totally unknown to this day.

It involved Dr Martin Henry Dawson sacrificing his own life, all in an effort to see that wartime penicillin's scanty production and distribution was de-militarized  by the Allies and then made available to all the world's 'tired, poor and huddled'.

If his story had been better known much earlier,  Janus Manhattan would have shown two faces to the world , above all to the world that spawned the 911 Bombers.

One face of Manhattan would still intone "Now I am become Death, Destroyer of Nations" and brandish Big Science and a Big Bomb to go with its earlier Mars-like image of Big Skyscrapers and Big Business.

But the other face could have intoned "Now I am become Hope, Healer of Nations" .

It would remind the world of Manhattan's Venus side during WWII.

And remind us of the Statue of Liberty and of the other face of a  vast city where small diverse ethnic neighbourhoods are as least as common as big faceless corporate headquarters.

It is still not too late to tell Dawson's story to the world and hope it helps remind us not to see people and events through only a black and white lens but rather to see life in its full technicolor complexity....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Janus Manhattan : "destroyer of worlds" or "provider of life-affirming balm" or both ?

Penicillium Monstrance

When native Manhattanite Robert J Oppenheimer proclaimed - portentously - "Now I am become DEATH , the destroyer of worlds" after the Manhattan Project's first atomic explosion , he seems to set Manhattan's wartime image in concrete for all time.

It was this existing image of Manhattan that the 911 bombers relied upon to soften the outrage against their mass killings.

But the real Manhattan is far too complex and dynamic to ever present just one face to the world --- and so it was with its activities between 1939 and 1945.

For Manhattan ,Janus-like , had another (almost unknown and largely mis-understood) Project during WWII.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson the medical scientist had a very simple thesis : that Life inevitably 'Comes in All Sizes'.

As a result, 'global commensality' (all life dines at a common table) is a necessity forced upon all of us living beings and we might as well learn to accept it.

But the tenet of his age, The Age of High Modernity (1875 -1965), was that Bigger was Better, in fact the inevitable path of progress.

So small life would have to give way and disappear before the forces of the giants of life.

Dawson believed that WWII would end quicker, with fewer deaths, if the Allies set out to defeat Hitler morally, as well as just militarily.

Instead they were seeming intent on matching Hitler's evil doctrines, albeit in a muted fashion, cut for cut.

Killing American patients like Charles Aronson by passive neglect was hardly morally different than killing German patients like Martin Bader by active injection.

In an era that exalted the Big, Dawson dared to defend the small : small patients like Charlie and small cures, like natural penicillin from mold slime.

Another native Manhattanite , Gladys Hobby, was the most religious devout on Dawson's tiny team.

Instead of a text from Hindu religion, we might choose to see a quasi-Christian symbol in her practise of daily carrying petri dishes of sectoring penicillium mold to the wards holding the dying patients like Charlie.

She did it, she says,  to sustain their morale so they might live long enough for enough penicillin to be produced by her team to save their lives.

Anyone who as ever seen a photograph of sectored penicillium mold on a flat petri dish can not help but think it reminded them of something , but just what ?

Spikes of blue with golden droplets on top radiate in all directions, ending in a circle of white mold growth.

It is a radiant, jewel like  image - rather like a stylized sun.

Like a - that's it - a monstrance : that sun-like object that contains the sacred Host and is held aloft by the priest and minister on special occasions.

A stylized sun, radiating in all directions, warming all, was always an universal symbol of life and hope, even before Christianity.

The Host in a monstrance - Jesus's body for real or as a symbol - is the unifying symbol of the Christian tradition : offering up the hope of (eternal) life , particularly as it is often exposed before those facing death.

But sometimes Jesus offered an earthly life as well as an eternal heavenly life.

So even Lazarus died, physically, in the end, as would patients like Charlie : but even so , every additional day on earth seemed a precious boom and balm to the troubled patient and their families.

Eventually a nearby doctor , Dante Colitti, was inspired to emulate Dr Dawson's government-bucking actions to obtain illicit penicillin supplies for discarded Americans.

He got the masters of Yellow Journalism , the Hearst papers, to go to bat on behalf of the Yellow Magic and a beautiful thing soon happened.

For when a two year baby named Patricia Malone got snatched back from death , around the world 'Doctor Mom' soon was demanding that the men get their butts off the couch and start seriously producing penicillin, now !  ----- fifteen long years after it was first discovered.

Dawson was only a part of the long story of penicillin and antibiotics but he is the whole story of wartime penicillin.

Without his moral drive, the medical cum scientific cum commercial powers-to-be would have still been trying to make highly profitable , patent-able ,synthetic penicillin years after the war ended, instead of mass producing life-saving natural ( public domain) penicillin during the war that so badly needed it.

Dawson's moral urgency personally moved the family of the Pfizer boss and moved that boss to mass produce natural penicillin as soon as possible - and it was Brooklyn based Pfizer that made the vast bulk of the wartime penicillin., let us never forget.

My book about Dawson's Manhattan Project is written as a deliberate rebuttal to the story the 911 bombers told against Manhattan, to try and justify their mass killings.

What they said about Manhattan wasn't totally untrue but it told only part of her story.

Because, like Life itself, Manhattan 'Comes in All Sizes' : she has been the home to unbelievably good things as well as bad things.

I would so much like to ask the 911 bombing planners and their supporters if they or their loved ones had ever been saved by cheap abundant penicillin and do they know that the effort to de-militarize penicillin and make it available to all was spawned in the same Manhattan they love so much to hate ?

Hopefully this book will be the start of that conversation we need to have with the Manhattan-haters.....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When nations bully

From 1931 to 1946 , the world saw an ending series of bullying sessions, as big and aggressive nations bullied small nations and small peoples and small individuals.

Contemporary historians are tending to extend WWII to run from 1931 to 1946  --- which is a good first step.

But they still tend to view it exclusively through political and military lenses, but might do well  to start calling a spade a spade .

Because contemporary parents and children (if not historians)  increasingly recognize bullying as something that does not begin and end in the childhood schoolyard ....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hyssop (In a Time of Cedar) : GOOD NEWS , from The Bad News War

The other Manhattan Project (1940-1945) was Henry Dawson's ultimately successful effort to "Defend the small, in a Time of the Big".

He sought to defend all of us as equally unique and small individuals.

This, in an age that preferred to see only large reified collectivities.

He had to fight against two billion people and a world that had taught themselves to show group love to their 'own kind' and exhibit group hate for all other humans.

While its impact was ultimately enormous, his four person team was as small as the better known Manhattan Project team was big.

But appropriately so.

Because both the patients he hoped to aid  ("The 4Fs of the 4Fs"  - young people needlessly dying because they were seen as worthless along the mean corridors of wartime medical science) and the means he hoped to use to save them (invisibly tiny fungus factories) were also very small.

This particular life-saving fungus that he was the first to use to save a life was originally found on a hyssop branch in Sweden .

We might recall that the Bible memorably uses the tiny hyssop to contrast with the enormous cedars of Lebanon, as examples of the breadth and width of God's concerns and love.

Modernity's War (WWII) was all about bigness --- as were the peacetime decades proceeding it.

It was a Time of Cedars and the smaller nations of the world were nothing but hyssop underfoot, trampled upon before the onslaught of German, Russia and Japan (and sometimes America and Britain.)

Dawson was too old (and too physically unfit) to once again to rush to the defence of small nations like Belgium --- as he had in WWI.

But he could at least defend the weakest members of the Allied Nations from efforts of many in the Allied medical and scientific elite to defeat the Nazis by matching the Nazi, tactic by tactic.

WWII was hardly The Good War, it was in fact a war of enormous bad faith on all sides, an all-around bad news war.

But in the story of Dawson's dying effort to aid others weaker than himself, we finally have, coming out of that dreadful conflict, a truly GOOD NEWS STORY.......

Saturday, August 10, 2013

In a world war obsessed by 1A nations, soldiers and scientists, Henry Dawson dared to defend the worthiness of 4Fs... and 4F science

During WWII (1931-1946) a whole series of countries cum bullies - among the Allies as well as among the Axis - almost totally consistently choose to only attack those nations or peoples they judged weaker than themselves.

Britain, for example, shamefully refused to attack Germany with   its potentially much larger Commonwealth army manpower and felt the war could be won by invading weaker Italy instead.

It also choose to starved the prostrate peoples of occupied Europe by blockade , rather than attack Germany directly with all that  Commonwealth army manpower, in hopes this also would win the war, along with success in Italy.

Only twice, both times in December of 1941, did bullies deliberately choose to attack someone they believed was stronger than they were : when Japan and then Germany declared war on America , a nation with by far the biggest economy in the world and also by far the hardest country to invade.

In partial explanation of all this bully behavior, it was the Age of Modernity, when the majority of powerful opinion was firmly convinced that Evolution was unidirectional and always consolidating into fewer (and ever bigger) entities.

Fewer ever bigger animals and plants, fewer ever bigger buildings, ships and dams ,fewer ever bigger corporations and cities , fewer ever bigger nations and empires.

Ever bigger and bigger, ever better and better : so that the destruction and absorption of the smaller and the weaker was simply inevitable.

So what we might now regard - in post hegemonic times - as the shameful behavior of virtually all the nations and people of the world, two billion standing around as bystanders at a holocaust or a schoolyard bullying session, they then regarded as sad but inevitable, "letting Nature take its course."

Henry Dawson didn't agree and he put his strong disagreement into actions.

Dr (Martin) Henry Dawson never said why he did what he did, why he went so far out on a limb to do what he did or why he willingly gave up his life to aid his efforts.

But concrete deeds walk, while abstract talk ... just talks.

By his deeds, we can see that Dawson clearly thought even the 4Fs of the 4Fs were worth saving at the height of Total War, particularly when his side was fighting, after all, opponents who thought they weren't worth saving.

By his deeds, we know he clearly thought tiny 4F science had its own virtues, even during a war when Science, like skyscrapers, was thought only to get better when it got bigger.

Seventy five years on, his solitary figure looks now like the sensible one, while his many  opponents - basically the vast majority of informed opinion - now look to be sadly hubris-ridden and totally lack in the imagination to see beyond the obvious.

Dawson didn't say 'small was beautiful' and 'big was bad', partly because he didn't say anything at all.

 But he definitely acted as if he had concluded that Evolution as progressing in all directions : as often decomposing into tiny viruses as it was consolidating into big dinosaurs.

This could be because any acute observer of Life on Earth, and Dawson was acutely open to everything, would be forced to conclude that reality had indeed given the planet a dynamic mix of stability niches (aiding the existence of large entities) and instability niches (aiding the existence of small entities).

So an eternal global commensality of big and little entities was inevitable.

If Dawson had lived and had been in good health he might have formally stated what he believed and the lessons we might learn from his successes.

But he didn't, so we must tease them out : from his deeds....

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Lawrence J Malone" "Katherine M Malone" "Patricia Malone" "Jean Malone" : whatever happened to 1943's "Penicillin Baby" ?

I often wonder what ever happened to the family of the once briefly world famous "Penicillin Baby", Patricia (Patty) (Pat) Malone, after their fleeting two months of sudden fame from mid August to mid October 1943.

I have had some luck tracing the family backwards, before that time period, but very little luck finding any of them after that date.

First, let me say what I have found after 1943.

The couple Lawrence J (probably John, after his father) Malone and Katherine M Malone had two daughters, Jean born in 1936 and Patricia born in 1941.

(We know this from the 1940 census and the age given for Patricia in late 1943 in all the news stories.)

We know their exact address in 1943 (83-11 34th Avenue) - which matches the same one in the 1940 census. (Today 8311 34th Avenue.)

Their 1943 photo appearances closely matches the ages and occupations given in the 1940 census, given us added comfort.

Now Jean and Patricia are (statistically) more likely than not to live to young adulthood, marry and have children, in the period 1940 to 1965.

In time, Lawrence and Katherine's older relatives would die, as would the couple themselves.

In communities smaller than New York, all this would certainly generate press announcements of engagements, marriages, births, graduations and deaths allowing us to track the family even after the girls married and took up different last names.

But I can find nothing at all on Google's various sources for such information.

All I can find is the Social Security death registration of the mother Katherine M Malone.

Her birth date (1913) and location at time of death, Jackson Heights Queens New York, match the 1940 census.

She was an unpaid homemaker back then.

But in 1960-1961 she became part of the paid workforce and got a Social Security number issued in New York City.

When she died, a few more parts of her life became part of the public domain : her exact birth date (March 27th 1913) and her month of death (March 1994) probably a little before March 27th 1994.

Now the early 1960s were a crucial date for the Social Security System .

After 1962, all deaths reported (not all are reported but doing so gains survivors the death benefits) were put on computer and made public.

Deaths before that (1936-1962) are not public. And after 1961, many people once not covered by Social Security were added in : many of them holding middle class jobs like certain quasi-self -employed professionals.

Lawrence as an insurance adjuster might not have ever fitted the Social Security requirements if he was truly self employed.

But more likely is the possibility he died fairly young or got too sick to work just before 1960-1961, which is why his wife started working and why he was never found on the death index.

(He'd be 103 or 104, if alive today --- so he is probably dead.)

Jean and Patty would be 24 and 19 by 1960 and one or both probably taking expensive post-secondary education, so this might be another reason for their mom to go to work at that time.

But no death notice for Lawrence or for Patty and Jean - at least under their unmarried names : but the girls, at 77 and 72 in 2013 , might still both be alive.

One more thing : if you type in Malone and their Jackson Heights address , 83-11 (8311) 34th Avenue into Google, you get a public database suggesting that two sets of Malones lived in that same small apartment building and used the same telephone number.


(When subscribers quit or die, their number get re-assigned.)

One is Lawrence J Malone and Katherine M Malone --- the other is John M Malone aged 77 (in 2013 ? - this isn't clear but it does make John Malone the same age as Jean Malone.)

But as indicated in the last blog, the 1940 census calling her Jean isn't likely to be wrong -- her mother was the informant and the information is recorded in a particularly clear handwriting.

A nephew ? But Lawrence only had a sister . A more distant relative of his father ?

Dead end.

But we have found a little more about Lawrence and his daughters  from earlier times.

Lawrence was born and raised in mid Manhattan and his parents were New York born and raised as well.

Perhaps he also worked in Manhattan and only lived in Jackson Heights, then a new middle class residential suburb for the upwardly mobile.

Such as was Lawrence . Very few New Yorkers put the birth announcement of their new children in the august and expensive pages of the New York Times , but he did.

Both girls, un-named, were born in Park East, a private hospital in mid Manhattan.

Jean, July 3rd 1936 and Patricia,  July 25th 1941.

Both dates match our other information, as do the names of the parents as reported in Times.

Canny professionals often self-promote themselves subtly by these sort of announcements, if their industry ethics forbid direct advertising.

In 1930 , the census indicates that Lawrence's father John was unemployed doing odd labour jobs and his mother did outside housework but Lawrence had some college education and was a steno at a steamship line.

By 1940, he was an insurance adjuster and making a very good income for his age.

Lets look at the 1915 census to measure how far he had come.

In 1915 he was 6, born 1909 or 1910. His older sister Jennie was 8 and born around 1907.

His father John was a polisher and was born around 1876.

His mother Mary did housekeeping and was a year older than her husband (supposedly).

They lived at 505 West 49th Street in Manhattan.

They have two boarders, women both named Walsh : Margaret born in 1880 a laundress and Catherine born in 1882 unemployed.

Perhaps sisters of Mary (Walsh) Malone ?

By 1930, the family is smaller but still at the same address.

Jennie and Margaret were gone elsewhere. Lawrence's age seems correct but sadly John and Mary and Kath Walsh have ages out a few good years from the 1915 information.

Kath is now working as a cleaner of buildings.

May 1930 was not yet The Great Depression - not in New York and not anywhere  - so, except for Lawrence, the family hadn't really done well from the booming 1920s.

With their exact ages so far off in each census - and with very common Irish American names - it isn't really possible to determine when John and Mary died ; there are several good possibilities.

The same for the Walsh women.

A New York based genealogist specializing in Irish families might do more but I may have come to a dead end.

As always, I hope what information I have been able to find , combined with the new interest roused by my book's fascinating story, will enable others to find out more about Patricia Malone --- along with Charles Aronson, Aaron Alston, HH and Eleanor Chaffee Hahnel and all the others in Henry Dawson's penicillin story......

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Patricia Malone","Anne Shirley Carter", "Marie Barker" : penicillin heroines, but only for two months and long long ago ...

Marie Barker, dying, refused penicillin 1943

For two months during a six year long war, North America (at least its parental and grandparental half) temporarily turned away from looking at the front page pictures of healthy young sons and grandsons in uniform in their local newspaper.

Instead, from mid August 1943 till mid October 1943, their eyes were caught by the unlikely front page pictures (unlikely for newspapers at peace as well as at war ) of very sick young females, ranging from ages of two to their early twenties.

Daughters and granddaughters very much like their own.

All were either being saved from death because they had pried a little penicillin from the hard-faced men in the medical-pharmaceutical establishment --- or were dying because they had failed to move these men.

For two months these young women - some just babies themselves and some new mothers with new babies - were featured almost daily in most of the North American dailies and weeklies, usually with a photo prominent in the story.

It is the female-ness of these pictures, particularly set against the then steady front page diet of butch men with guns, that intrigues me.

The photos feature sick young women surrounded by other women : men are a comparative rarity.

Mothers and nieces comfort daughter and aunt, as in the above photo of Marie Barker. A baby is comforted by a mother (Katherine M Malone), a female nurse, or a female baby doll - as in the case of Patricia Malone.

(Though we do  also see photos of her comforted by the doctor (Dante Colitti) and father (Lawrence J Malone) who pushed to get her life saving penicillin.)

Doctor Mom was sending a message : to Congress, to the feckless AMA , NAS and OSRD and above all to the patent-obsessed Pharmaceutical industry.

One pharmaceutical leader, John L Smith, was pushed and prodded by his wife Mae to remember that penicillin, discovered in 1928, could have saved their precious daughter Mary Louise ---- if only some people had got off their fannies and thought about the children.

He responded by pushing his small firm to go all out to produce penicillin in world-saving amounts and by the Spring of the next year , the penicillin famine was well on to its way to being solved.

Patty, Anne and Marie all faded out of the story - their part in forcing men to finally make penicillin - 15 years late - for children was all conveniently underplayed by the men who wrote most subsequent penicillin histories.

But a penicillin history from a woman who was in the front lines of penicillin from its North American beginnings and knew John L Smith well (Gladys Hobby), never let her readers forget that it was those pictures of dying daughters that finally moved the men from killing to life-saving.

If only for a few months ....

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Penicillin Baby Patricia Malone survives !

In earlier posts I had mentioned that "The Penicillin Baby", little two year old Patty Malone, whose fight against a fatal staph disease had gripped all of North America for six weeks between August 12th and September 22nd 1943, had finally died of her disease in mid September 1943.

But perhaps it isn't true.
This "claim" was based on a secondary report on her story, in an official history of the Pulitzer Prize, and from what I could find ( and not find) in newspapers from that time that are on Google when I looked.

(The newspaper and editor who had got the life-saving penicillin for her from a heartless American government had won a Pulitzer for their efforts.)

I usually search about every two months as new newspapers get digitalized and get put on the Net, while other newspapers disappear off the Net.

Today I found two stories - from tiny obscure rural newspapers  (actually a good sign - meaning it was wire copy and available to all) with a photo, both from AP.

They showed that Patty was released, fit and well, to her parents Lawrence J and Katherine M Malone on September 22nd after a six week stay at Lutheran hospital in New York.

I say fit and well because the text says so and the image of little Patricia in her cute new bonnet proves it - we also have earlier photos when she was very near death to show the distinct difference.

Emboldened by all this --- and the fact that I now had the mother's middle initial ---- I went back to the 1940 federal census in America to look real hard.

Ironically, I finally had to put less in , rather than more, and I found in 1940 a Lawrence and Katherine Malone at their exact 1943 address (apartment 1c) (83 -11 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Flushing, Queens, New York), the one mentioned  in many newspaper stories of the time.

(This mania for disclosing exact full names and exact full addresses was a style of many newspapers back then.)

Age and occupation matched their appearance in the 1943 photos.

(The census showed he had a few years of college, was an insurance adjuster and made a good salary of $3200 in 1940.)

They had a daughter, Jean, born in 1937. Katherine (M) Malone, the stay-at-home mother was the informant, so this had to be accurate - besides the handwritten information of the census taker was extremely neat and readable.

But a telephone number database showed a John M Malone, born about 1939 , living at the 1943 Malone address fairly recently.

If Lawrence's middle name was John, statistically more than moderately likely, then he might well name a son John.

His same telephone number was earlier held by Lawrence J Malone and Katherine M Malone living at that same address !

I tried a search in the US Social Security death registry ( a list of all people who worked for pay and so paid into the system and were alive and working after 1960, when the data started getting put into a computer database.)

I did find a Katherine M Malone whose birth ( March 27 1913)  matched the 1940 census information - she died in March 1994 in Jackson Heights.

Lawrence J Malone was born in New York 1910 and was also raised in New York , as was his wife. But the names and dates on record for New York were all for men born much later than that.

So perhaps he died before 1960.

Patricia Malone was born in 1941 (as she was two in late 1943) so if she lived to adulthood and never married she might be a Patricia A Malone, born April 14 1941, who died September 2 2009 in Brooklyn.

A search for a John M Malone on the death index found nothing - he might well still be alive, as could Jean and Patricia - the average birth date of many Americans dying today is some time in the 1920s, not in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

I will push on and search harder, but for now a nice photo of the bonneted baby Patricia, September 22nd 1943, obtained from a small town rural weekly in Texas.

Yes, a New York story, published even in the tiny town of Mexia Texas.

Because this was a Good News Story that every parent and grandparent in North America kept a moist eye on, particularly at the height of all the death and destruction of the Bad News War....

Monday, August 5, 2013

WWII: 2 billion moral decisions

Morally, for Earth's two billion individuals in those years, WWII (1931-1946) was about one thing and one thing only.

It was this : should they remain as neutral, pacifist, bystanders to a long series of international bullyings - or should they become interventionalists and fight to protect the weaker and the smaller ?

This way of looking at WWII emphasizes that nations were not the only active participants in this conflict, regardless of many academic and popular historians make that claim explicitly or implicitly.

So Spain might have been officially Neutral during WWII , but semi-unofficially many of its men went off to fight with the Axis against the Russian communists while a few others slipped away quietly and volunteered to fight in the Allied armed forces.

Britain was always a combatant on the Allied side, but it too have its divisions of opinion among its citizens.

It had its willing and unwilling conscripts, its eager volunteers and and its turncoat traitors.

It also had a great many citizens ("funk holers") who laid low, kept their mouth shut and who did as little as possible with regard to working in the war economy to shorten the war and thought only of ways to make money and keep safe.

 Many of them were quite prepared to make nice with either the British or the German government, depending on who won the war.

 I say WWII lasted 15 years .

For me, it really began in Manchuria - attacked in 1931 by Japan while 2 billion other earthlings basically did nothing to stop it.

Its mid-point was the infamous Munich Agreement in late 1938, again a sell-out of a small nation, a sell-out agreement cheered to the walls by 2 billion earthlings.

Even the formal ending of the war didn't stop the deaths.

In 1946, Moldova , a small food-producing part of the USSR, saw many of its farmers semi-deliberately starved to death despite a surplus of food produced.

This was because Moscow took most of Moldova's food to send to Eastern Europe so the Russians could play the role of food-delivering liberators, even if it meant that their own people back home starved.

Fearful of making the large republics like the Ukraine hate Moscow even more for yet another deliberate famine, Stalin chose to pick on a small republic - one he knew couldn't bite back effectively.

Other governments knew of general famine situations throughout the USSR in 1946 but little real noise was made urging Moscow to feed its own first and let America surpluses fed soviet-controlled Eastern Europe.

So Stalin bullied Moldova and again another bully got away with it.

Hirohito, Hitler and Stalin : Bully - Bully - Bully.

Many people said, between 1931 to 1946, that these affairs were just 'schoolyard fights' in distant lands and no concerns of theirs : they chose to be non-interventionalists, chose not to help the smaller party.

But when a High School senior / beefy football star beats up a little girl in the primary grade and chooses to do so in the schoolyard, we should call it for what it really is : a savage case of bullying.

The kids who silently stand around watching an uneven schoolyard 'fight' all grow up one day : and they then stand around silently while Germany beats the hell out of Belgium and Greece et al.

Bystander children become adult bystanders at a whole series of holocausts enacted out in the global schoolyard.....

Sunday, August 4, 2013

It's Milton's AGAPE not the Greek AGAPE...

I have been going backwards and forwards in my mind - and in my heart - about the exact spelling (and pronunciation)  of my book title.
Agape with a macron (a long flat line as a accent) over the "e" at the end of the word signals the Greek word and meaning : pronounced a-GAP-eh, all slurred together.

 A word, used mostly by Christians, to mean an openness to others' needs.

Agape, without the macron, is a word invented by the famous Christian poet John Milton, from the word "gape" : to stare, open- mouthed.

A + gape gave us "agape", to be in the state of open-mouth-ness, in wonder,awe and eagerness.

Pronounced :  (soft a)  A   gape , with a small separation between A and gape.

As I have said in previous blogs, Dr Francis Peabody said that  a-GAP-eh ,to be truly effective in helping someone in need , requires our mind as well as our heart.

We must care about an individual, in all their unique individuality, if we are to be effective in caring for that individual's needs.

Dr Henry Dawson had spent a dozen years, from 1927 to 1939,  listening - really listening - to the strivings of Life's smallest and weakest beings, the microbes.

 So he was in an excellent position, starting in September 1940, to effectively care for some of the wartime world's smallest and weakest human beings.

 They were "the 4Fs of the 4Fs" , the many young SBE patients dying needlessly of wartime benign neglect, by direct orders from the top of the Allied medical-scientific establishment.

His heart was open (agape) to the needs of the SBEs, but so were the hearts of many other doctors before him.

But unlike them, his mind was also open (agape) to the solution : medicine made by foul-smelling microbe feces , aka natural penicillin.

So Milton's Agape fits Dawson's efforts more completely than does the Greek Agape' from the New Testament, which also fits, but only partially so.

Similarly, my book's sub-title could refer the Gospel message (Good News).

Or it could merely repeat a cliche from contemporary news-reporting : with newscasters always trying to finish off the mostly grim news of the broadcast by ending with a "brite" or a "Good News Story" : a lighter toned, uplifting story.

One immediately thinks of the Anne Murray song, "A Little Good News", written by Rocco, Black and Bourke.

Its arresting opening referenced "Bryan Gumbel talkin' about the fightin' in Lebanon" --- a totally unexpected something cum hook  I am sure immediately caught the ear of every songwriter on the planet.

My book's title and sub-title doesn't preclude someone thinking of them as terms from the New Testament of two thousand years ago ,  but I wish to say that for me at least,  it is a variant of that old eternal message, but dressed in current post-modern garb....