discovery of penicillin

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pages: 564 words: 163,106

The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine by M. D. James le Fanu M. D.

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Barry Marshall: ulcers, clean water, cuban missile crisis, discovery of penicillin, double helix, experimental subject, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, meta analysis, meta-analysis, rising living standards, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), stem cell, telerobotics, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method, V2 rocket

I would recommend The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine. I found it informative and intriguing’ THOMAS STUTTAFORD in the Literary Review ‘The skill [of medical journalism] is to write with humanity and objectivity, a dual responsibility brilliantly fulfilled by the author . . . This book is well worth reading just for the brilliant pen portraits of Le Fanu’s twelve definitive moments of medical advance. Some, like the discovery of penicillin, are well known, but even here the author has a way of encapsulation that is full of insights and unusual detail . . . It would be possible to close the book here, just over halfway through, and still feel you had had your money’s worth. But the challenge is in the second half, where three much hyped hopes for the future are brought down to earth . . . This excellent book has challenged many of my views’ DAVID OWEN in the Spectator ‘[The first] part of the book makes a jolly good yarn.

There were, however, three ‘new’ diseases that had recently emerged to become major causes of untimely death in middle age: peptic ulcers, heart attacks and cancer of the lung. Their cause was not known and, as ever, there were no effective treatments. The purpose of this book is to describe what happened next, starting with an account of the ‘twelve definitive moments’ – the ‘canon’ – of modern medicine. 1 1941: PENICILLIN The discovery of penicillin is, predictably, both the first of the twelve definitive moments of the modern therapeutic revolution and the most important. Penicillin and the other antibiotics that followed rapidly in its wake cured not only the acute lethal infections such as septicaemia, meningitis and pneumonia, but also the chronic and disabling ones such as chronic infections of the sinuses, joints and bones. This in turn liberated medicine to shift its attention in the coming decades to a completely different and up till then neglected source of human misfortune: the chronic diseases associated with ageing, such as arthritic hips and furred-up arteries.

If a naturally occurring non-toxic chemical compound produced by a species of fungus such as penicillin could make the difference between whether a child with meningitis should live or die, it was only natural to wonder whether other ghastly and baffling illnesses might not yield to similar simple solutions. Perhaps cancer might be curable, or schizophrenia might be treatable? In the public imagination antibiotics came to symbolise the almost limitless beneficent possibilities of science. Yet this is not entirely merited, for, as will be seen, the discovery of penicillin was not the product of scientific reasoning but rather an accident – much more improbable than is commonly appreciated. Further, at the core of antibiotics lies an unresolved mystery: why should just a few species of micro-organisms produce these complex chemical compounds with the capacity to destroy the full range of bacteria that cause infectious disease in humans? On 12 February 1941, a 43-year-old policeman, Albert Alexander, became the first person to be treated with penicillin.


pages: 397 words: 110,130

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

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3D printing, 4chan, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Benjamin Mako Hill, butterfly effect, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Edward Thorp, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Gunnar Myrdal, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, iterative process, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, lifelogging, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, patent troll, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Socratic dialogue, spaced repetition, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, Vannevar Bush, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, X Prize, éminence grise

Learning that other people have the same idea can be anything from annoying to terrifying. Scientists themselves are hardly immune. Because they want the fame of discovery, once they learn someone else is working on a similar problem, they’re as liable to compete as to collaborate—and they’ll bicker for decades over who gets credit. The story of penicillin illustrates this as well. Three decades after Duchesne made his discovery of penicillin, Alexander Fleming in 1928 stumbled on it again, when some mold accidentally fell into a petri dish and killed off the bacteria within. But Fleming didn’t seem to believe his discovery could be turned into a lifesaving medicine, so, remarkably, he never did any animal experiments and soon after dropped his research entirely. Ten years later, a pair of scientists in Britain—Ernest Chain and Howard Florey—read about Fleming’s work, intuited that penicillin could be turned into a medicine, and quickly created an injectable drug that cured infected mice.

Some of my favorite analyses include Kevin Kelly in What Technology Wants (New York: Penguin, 2010), Kindle edition; Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2010), 34–35; and Malcolm Gladwell, “In the Air,” The New Yorker, May 12, 2008, accessed March 22, 2013, www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_gladwell. Robert Merton took up the question of multiples: Robert K. Merton, “Singletons and Multiples in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 105, no. 5 (October 13, 1961): 470–86. Merton discusses the mathematicians on page 479. the tragic story of Ernest Duchesne: My account of Duchesne’s discovery of penicillin comes from Serge Duckett, “Ernest Duchesne and the Concept of Fungal Antibiotic Therapy,” The Lancet 354 (December 11, 1999): 2068–71; Kurt Link, Understanding New, Resurgent, and Resistant Diseases: How Man and Globalization Create and Spread Illness (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007), 13–14; Paul André, M. C. Schraefel, Jaime Teevan, and Susan T. Dumais, “Discovery Is Never by Chance: Designing for (Un)Serendipity,” Proceedings of the Seventh ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition (2009), 305–14.

consider what happened next to Ory Okolloh: My account of the origins of Ushahidi draws from Ory Okolloh, “Update Jan 3 11:00 pm,” Kenyan Pundit, January 3, 2008, accessed March 22, 2013, www.kenyanpundit.com/2008/01/03/update-jan-3-445-1100-pm/; Erik Hersman, “It’s Not about Us, It’s about Them,” WhiteAfrican, January 4, 2008, accessed March 22, 2013, whiteafrican.com/2008/01/04/its-not-about-us-its-about-them/; Ted Greenwald, “David Kobia, 32,” MIT Technology Review, September 2010, www2.technologyreview.com/tr35/profile.aspx?trid=947; and an e-mail communication with Hersman. Three decades after Duchesne made his discovery of penicillin, Alexander Fleming in 1928: Alexander Kohn, Fortune or Failure: Missed Opportunities and Chance Discoveries (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989), 76–96. “most of the smartest people work for someone else”: Lewis DVorkin, “Forbes Contributors Talk About Our Model for Entrepreneurial Journalism,” Forbes, December 1, 2011, accessed March 22, 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/lewisdvorkin/2011/12/01/forbes-contributors-talk-about-our-model-for-entrepreneurial-journalism/.


pages: 206 words: 70,924

The Rise of the Quants: Marschak, Sharpe, Black, Scholes and Merton by Colin Read

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Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, collateralized debt obligation, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discovery of penicillin, discrete time, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, fixed income, floating exchange rates, full employment, Henri Poincaré, implied volatility, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Meriwether, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, margin call, market clearing, martingale, means of production, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, naked short selling, Paul Samuelson, price stability, principal–agent problem, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, risk tolerance, risk/return, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, stochastic process, The Chicago School, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Works Progress Administration, yield curve

And while a PhD creates an almost unitary track to academia for economists, those with PhDs in finance more often find their way to Wall Street rather than the ivory tower. There is perhaps no better example in the decision sciences of the evolution of ideas that are so revolutionary. Certainly, Newton’s equations of motion and Leibniz’s development of calculus, and the Nobel Laureate Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in 1905 and its E ⫽ mc2 prophecy had comparable transformational potency on society and our economy. So too was the discovery of penicillin attributed to the Nobel Laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. These innovations revolutionized pure science, engineering, or humanity itself. However, before the rise of the quants, finance or economics had known no such profound insight that truly transformed markets. No other discovery or innovation has directly generated the sort of profits and economic activity that these innovations in finance created.


pages: 298 words: 76,727

The Microbiome Solution by Robynne Chutkan M.D.

clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, David Strachan, discovery of penicillin, epigenetics, hygiene hypothesis, Mason jar, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome

While it’s true that infectious diseases like cholera and tuberculosis still plague poorer countries, in the more developed world it’s actually the lack of germs that’s making many of us sick. As the next chapter will show, some of our “medical miracles,” when used indiscriminately, can end up contributing to, rather than curing, disease. CHAPTER 4 |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Pharmageddon and the Antibiotic Paradox THERE’S NO QUESTION that Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 is still one of the greatest contributions to medicine. It could have prevented events like the Great Plague of the 1600s, which wiped out a quarter of the population of Europe. Antibiotics prevent death from serious infection every day, sparing the human race untold misery. But in our current climate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, they’re also used indiscriminately for a wide variety of minor, self-limited conditions.


pages: 289 words: 112,697

The new village green: living light, living local, living large by Stephen Morris

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back-to-the-land, Buckminster Fuller, clean water, cleantech, collective bargaining, Columbine, Community Supported Agriculture, computer age, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, discovery of penicillin, distributed generation, energy security, energy transition, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, Firefox, index card, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Kevin Kelly, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, McMansion, Menlo Park, Negawatt, off grid, peak oil, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review

We should stress, though, that medicine is descended from botany and a great many herbal remedies are still in the doctor’s kit. The drugs have been extracted or synthesized, but many owe their origins to the herbalist. You argue that herbal medicine isn’t nearly so steeped in superstition as some skeptics believe. For example, the folk remedy of applying bread mold to wounds to prevent infection dates back to long before scientific medicine and the discovery of penicillin. Just how much can homesteaders rely on folk cures today? Herbal remedies can help cure most of the simple illnesses. Nature, for instance, can regulate your bowels in either direction. Cascara bark is still used in a great many commercial laxatives, such as Ex-Lax. Most of the medicines for diarrhea are based on tannin... though the natural ones don’t have opiates added to relieve pain or quiet muscles.


pages: 300 words: 84,762

Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases by Paul A. Offit

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1960s counterculture, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, discovery of penicillin, en.wikipedia.org, germ theory of disease, Isaac Newton, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Ronald Reagan

Several years later, at the start of the Second World War, a team of researchers at Oxford University headed by Howard Florey picked up where Fleming had left off. They purified penicillin, described its physical and chemical properties, studied its effects in animals and humans, and showed how to mass-produce it, just in time to save the lives of tens of thousands of Allied soldiers. Ten years after abandoning his research on penicillin, Alexander Fleming won the Nobel Prize in medicine “for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases.” Although our understanding of what penicillin is, how it works, and how it can be used to save lives couldn’t have happened without Howard Florey, few know his name. When people think of penicillin, they think of Alexander Fleming. The story of Fleming and Florey would be repeated with the discovery of the first substance to inhibit the growth of viruses and treat cancer.


pages: 357 words: 98,854

Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance by Nessa Carey

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Albert Einstein, British Empire, Build a better mousetrap, conceptual framework, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, life extension, mouse model, phenotype, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), stem cell, stochastic process, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

but ‘That’s funny ...’ Isaac Asimov There are multiple instances in science of a relatively chance event leading to a wonderful breakthrough. Probably the most famous example is Alexander Fleming’s observation that a particular mould, that had drifted by chance onto an experimental Petri dish, was able to kill the bacteria growing there. It was this random event that led to the discovery of penicillin and the development of the whole field of antibiotics. Millions of lives have been saved as a result of this apparently chance discovery. Alexander Fleming won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1945, along with Ernst Chain and Howard Florey who worked out how to make penicillin in large quantities so that it could be used to treat patients. Isaac Asimov’s famous statement at the top of this page flags up to us that Alexander Fleming wasn’t simply some fortunate man who struck lucky.


pages: 398 words: 100,679

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, mass immigration, nuclear winter, off grid, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

By the end of 1941 Florey’s team had scaled up production to make enough penicillin for clinical trials, but they were forced by wartime shortages of equipment to improvise. Mold cultures were grown in racks of shallow bedpans and makeshift extraction equipment built using an old bathtub, trash cans, milk churns, scavenged copper piping, and doorbells, all secured in a frame made from an oak bookcase discarded by the university library—inspiration, perhaps, for the scavenging and jury-rigging necessary after the apocalypse. So while the discovery of penicillin is often portrayed as accidental and almost effortless, Fleming’s observation was only the very first step on a long road of research and development, experimentation and optimization, to extract and purify the penicillin from the “mold juice” to create a safe and reliable pharmaceutical. In the end, the United States provided the large-scale fermentation to supply enough for widespread treatment.


pages: 314 words: 101,034

Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders

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data acquisition, discovery of penicillin, high batting average, index card, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, pattern recognition, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan

It’s rare, and seen most often in adolescents and young adults. Lemierre wrote up several cases of this illness, which begins with a fever and tonsillitis and progresses to a painful and often swollen neck as the infection moves into the jugular vein. Once there, the bacteria induce the formation of blood clots, which then shower the rest of the body with tiny bits of infected tissue. Before the discovery of penicillin the disease was usually fatal. The widespread use of penicillin to treat all severe sore throats during the 1960s and 1970s virtually wiped out the disease. But over the past twenty years, Lemierre’s has staged something of a comeback—an unintended consequence of a more cautious use of antibiotics and the development of new drugs—like Biaxin, which is what Tamara was given—that are easier to take but far less effective than penicillin against this potentially deadly infection.


pages: 260 words: 84,847

P53: The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code by Sue Armstrong

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Asilomar, discovery of DNA, discovery of penicillin, double helix, mouse model, stem cell, trade route

HENRY HARRIS HAS THE SAME IDEA Knudson had arrived at his theory through mathematical modelling of the data before him. There was, however, more direct experimental evidence to back it up. It came from the laboratory of cancer geneticist Henry Harris, an obstinate (by his own admission) and independent-minded Australian who had been recruited in 1952 by fellow countryman Howard Florey – famous for his collaboration with Alexander Fleming in the discovery of penicillin, for which they won a Nobel Prize – to work with him at Oxford University. Talking of his move from Sydney to Oxford many years later, Harris told an interviewer, ‘I got a telephone call from Hugh Ward, the Professor of Bacteriology [at Sydney], to say that he had Florey in his office and would I like to meet him. I said, “I must be dreaming, you mean the Florey?” He said, “Yes, come on over.”


pages: 433 words: 106,048

The End of Illness by David B. Agus M. D.

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Danny Hillis, discovery of penicillin, double helix, epigenetics, germ theory of disease, Google Earth, impulse control, information retrieval, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Murray Gell-Mann, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, randomized controlled trial, risk tolerance, Steve Jobs, the scientific method

The Inescapable Statistics To understand how we’ve arrived at a place where we focus so much on DNA, and why it’s critical to respect the body as an elaborate system beyond genetics, it helps to explore the evolution of our thinking processes against the backdrop of the challenges we’ve faced—and continue to face—in our quest for health and longevity. Most of our transformative breakthroughs in medicine have occurred only recently, in the last sixty or so years. Following the discovery of penicillin in 1928, which changed the whole landscape of fighting infections based on the knowledge that they were caused by bacteria, we got good at extending our lives by several years and, in many cases, decades. This was made possible through a constellation of contributing circumstances, including a decline in cigarette smoking, changes in our diets for the better, improvements in diagnostics and medical care, and of course advancements in targeted therapies and drugs such as cholesterol-lowering statins.


pages: 372 words: 111,573

10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness by Alanna Collen

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Asperger Syndrome, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Berlin Wall, biofilm, clean water, correlation does not imply causation, David Strachan, discovery of penicillin, Drosophila, Fall of the Berlin Wall, friendly fire, germ theory of disease, hygiene hypothesis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, illegal immigration, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, Maui Hawaii, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, phenotype, placebo effect, the scientific method

Butler’s concerns about using life-saving drugs to placate mildly ill patients were based mainly around the development of antibiotic resistance. He, like many other scientists and doctors, predicts we may soon enter a post-antibiotic era much like the pre-antibiotic era, in which surgery carried a high risk of death, and minor cuts could kill. This prediction is as old as antibiotics themselves. Sir Alexander Fleming, after making his discovery of penicillin, repeatedly cautioned that using too little of it, for too short a time, or without good reason, would bring about antibiotic resistance. He was right. Time and time again, bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics. The first penicillin-resistant bacteria were discovered just a few years after penicillin was introduced. It’s as simple as this: the susceptible bacteria die, sometimes leaving behind those that have, by chance, a mutation that makes them resistant.


pages: 492 words: 149,259

Big Bang by Simon Singh

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Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, V2 rocket, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

Walpole also highlighted this in his original letter when he described serendipity as the result of ‘accidents and sagacity’. Furthermore, those who want to be touched by serendipity must be ready to embrace an opportunity when it presents itself, rather than merely brushing down their seed-covered trousers, pouring their failed superglue down the sink or abandoning a failed medical trial. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin depended on a speck of penicillium mould floating in through the window, landing in a petri dish and killing off a bacterial culture. It is highly likely that many microbiologists had previously had their bacterial cultures contaminated by penicillium mould, but they had all discarded their petri dishes in frustration instead of seeing the opportunity to discover an antibiotic that would save millions of lives.


pages: 237 words: 50,758

Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly by John Kay

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Andrew Wiles, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, bonus culture, British Empire, business process, Cass Sunstein, computer age, corporate raider, credit crunch, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, discounted cash flows, discovery of penicillin, diversification, Donald Trump, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, market fundamentalism, Myron Scholes, Nash equilibrium, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, regulatory arbitrage, shareholder value, Simon Singh, Steve Jobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Predators' Ball, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, ultimatum game, urban planning, value at risk

The nineteenth-century French scientist Louis Pasteur made numerous important scientific discoveries, including that of immunization based on artificial tissue cultures. His method of discovery was oblique: Pasteur observed the effect when a botched experiment by his assistant produced unexpected results. That fortunate accident anticipated the similar obliquity of the most important of all pharmacological discoveries, that of penicillin. Pasteur’s pioneering innovation was not even an intermediate goal. The invention of immunization was a means of realizing the high-level objective—the advance of scientific knowledge—that was made possible by an open process of experiment and adaptation. “Fortune,” Pasteur observed, “favors the prepared mind.”10 PART TWO The Need for Obliquity: Why We Often Can’t Solve Problems Directly Chapter 7 MUDDLING THROUGH—Why Oblique Approaches Succeed In 1959, Charles Lindblom described “the science of muddling through.”


pages: 667 words: 186,968

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry

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Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, centralized clearinghouse, Chance favours the prepared mind, conceptual framework, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, index card, Louis Pasteur, Marshall McLuhan, Mason jar, means of production, statistical model, the medium is the message, the scientific method, traveling salesman, women in the workforce

Therefore the disease was, he concluded, “not influenza.” CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE LABORATORIES EVERYWHERE had turned to influenza. Pasteur’s protégé Émile Roux, one of those who had raced German competitors for a diphtheria antitoxin, directed the work at the Pasteur Institute. In Britain virtually everyone in Almroth Wright’s laboratory worked on it, including Alexander Fleming, whose later discovery of penicillin he first applied to research on Pfeiffer’s so-called influenza bacillus. In Germany, in Italy, even in revolution-torn Russia, desperate investigators searched for an answer. But by the fall of 1918 these laboratories could function only on a far-reduced scale. Research had been cut back and focused on war, on poison gas or defending against it, on preventing infection of wounds, on ways to prevent diseases that incapacitated troops such as “trench fever,” an infection related to typhus that was not serious in itself but had taken more troops out of the line any other disease.


pages: 670 words: 169,815

Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World by Kwasi Kwarteng

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Ayatollah Khomeini, banking crisis, British Empire, colonial rule, Corn Laws, corporate governance, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, Etonian, illegal immigration, imperial preference, invisible hand, Khartoum Gordon, land reform, sceptred isle, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, trade route, urban planning, Yom Kippur War

Unusually for their class and for the time, the boys, first under their father and later abroad, had a modern education, learning Mathematics, History, French and German, instead of Latin and Greek.4 A defining moment in the life of the young family came in 1863, when Frances Kitchener’s tuberculosis worsened and the doctors concluded that the damp conditions of south-west Ireland would never allow her to recover. The Colonel, with characteristic decisiveness, sold the estate and moved the family to Switzerland, which the doctors had recommended for its mountain air. This was a common prescription for tubercular and bronchial diseases in an age before the discovery of penicillin. The Kitchener family soon settled in the little spa town of Bex and the boys started attending a French school near Geneva. The move to Bex failed to improve Frances Kitchener’s health, and, in a desperate final attempt to remedy her condition, the family moved once again to Montreux, a town on the north-east shore of Lake Geneva, where a colony of British invalids and retired officers could be found.


pages: 1,294 words: 210,361

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

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Barry Marshall: ulcers, conceptual framework, discovery of penicillin, experimental subject, iterative process, life extension, Louis Pasteur, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mouse model, New Journalism, phenotype, randomized controlled trial, scientific mainstream, Silicon Valley, social web, statistical model, stem cell, women in the workforce, éminence grise

In 1997, the NCI director, Richard Klausner, responding to reports that cancer mortality had remained disappointingly static through the nineties, argued that the medical realities of one decade had little bearing on the realities of the next. “There are far more good historians than there are good prophets,” Klausner wrote. “It is extraordinarily difficult to predict scientific discovery, which is often propelled by seminal insights coming from unexpected directions. The classic example—Fleming’s discovery of penicillin on moldy bread and the monumental impact of that accidental finding—could not easily have been predicted, nor could the sudden demise of iron-lung technology when evolving techniques in virology allowed the growth of poliovirus and the preparation of vaccine. Any extrapolation of history into the future presupposes an environment of static discovery—an oxymoron.” In a limited sense, Klausner is right.


pages: 428 words: 121,717

Warnings by Richard A. Clarke

active measures, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Bernie Madoff, cognitive bias, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Elon Musk, failed state, financial thriller, fixed income, Flash crash, forensic accounting, friendly AI, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, knowledge worker, Maui Hawaii, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, mouse model, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart grid, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Y2K

In the 1980s, Senator Jesse Helms called for “quarantine of those infected.” Dana Bash and Evan Glass, “Huckabee Refuses to Retract ’92 Remarks on AIDS Patients,” CNN, Dec. 10, 2007, www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/10/huckabee.aids (accessed Oct. 8, 2016); and Jim Morrison, “HIV Quarantines? They Already Exist, Advocate, May 15, 2013, www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/05/15/op-ed-hiv-quarantines-they-already-exist (accessed Oct. 8, 2016). 11. “Discovery and Development of Penicillin,” American Chemical Society, https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/flemingpenicillin.html. 12. While human misuse of antibiotics is certainly one cause of antibiotic resistance, there is a complex interplay of reasons. To take just one example, 80 percent of antibiotics are used on farm animals to increase growth. 13. World Health Organization, Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance (Geneva: WHO, 2014), http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/112642/1/9789241564748_eng.pdf?


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pages: 1,104 words: 302,176

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Robert J. Gordon

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Before 1940, there were not many effective drugs, and those that were marketed dealt with surface symptoms without effectiveness in curing underlying conditions. In that era, pharmacists actually compounded the ingredients of drugs, instead of merely reselling drugs manufactured by large pharmaceutical firms. Trial and error by consumers had more effect on purchase decisions than any influence of government regulation.60 The rate of discovery of effective pharmaceutical drugs increased rapidly after the 1935 discovery of sulfonamide drugs and penicillin during World War II. Because most of the effects of this acceleration were felt after 1940, it is treated in chapter 14. The regulatory environment was radically changed by the successor to the 1906 food and drug legislation, which was passed in 1938 after years of debate. The first important change was the requirement that the FDA approve the introduction of newly developed drugs.

The first antibiotic, penicillin was versatile enough to cure “almost instantly such diseases as pneumonia, rheumatic fever, and syphilis, which had been greatly feared and often fatal.”14 Indeed, cases of syphilis, which occurred at a rate of 372 per 100,000 people in 1938, had fallen to 154.2 by 1950 and to sixty-eight in 1960, a testament to the antibiotic’s ability to kill the infection before it spread.15 Pneumonia, previously called the “Captain of the Men of Death,” was now easily curable, and by 1954 it caused only a quarter as many deaths of children ages 1–4 as in 1939. The effect on rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease was even greater, with the death rate falling 90 percent between 1940 and 1960.16 The discovery and subsequent development of penicillin came about largely by accident when, one night in 1928, the Englishman Alexander Fleming discovered a large patch of mold surrounded by a sterile ring on a dirty dish that had been left out for weeks. After finding that the mold had killed the growth of some types of bacteria, Fleming began experimenting to uncover the antibacterial feature of the mold. What started as an investigation in a small laboratory would by World War II become a large, coordinated, interdisciplinary team effort subsidized by the U.S. government.17 This effort marked the birth of large-scale drug research and development that would grow in size and complexity in the following decades.