Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dr Martin Henry Dawson, Avocat

Whenever I tell my friends and relatives (bored beyond relief by my constant but piecemeal re-telling of the Dr Dawson bio) that he was studying to be a lawyer (an advocate or advocat) at Dalhousie University before The Great War, they simply refuse to believe me.

For this self-effacing man, on the surface, seemed to totally lack all the natural attributes needed to be a forceful courtroom advocat.

But, on the scientific record, he was in fact a highly successful advocate.

For unlike Alexander Fleming and Frederick Griffith, the actual discoverers of Penicillin and recombinant DNA, he actually believed in their huge medical and biological importance from the very start, and was relentless in advocating that opinion as loudly and publicly as he could, as long as he lived.

They simply would not be the worldwide successes they have become, without his advocacy.


Frederick Griffith would never ever have even published his discovery of recombinant DNA, a early 1920s discovery that went directly against the tenor of his entire lifework, if he hadn't let news of its slip to a close friend some years later in the late 1920s.

That friend begged him to publish  --- and even threatened to recreate Giffith's discovery and publish these results first, if he did not.

Griffith reluctantly published --- but never raised his discovery again in his lifetime.

It was left to Dr Dawson, who repeatedly published and spoke on his new efforts involving recombinant DNA, one soul who kept the flame alive until others took it up after his early death.


Alexander Fleming, unlike Griffith, did promote his own discovery and its potential uses.

One can not fault him in any way on the fact that he saw the potential of an unusually spoiled petri dish and preserved some (but not all) of the information needed to explore it further.

But Fleming (from his discovery in 1928 till the global success of Dawson's natural systemic penicillin in 1944-1945 proved him so badly wrong) kept on insisting that penicillin was only useful as a minor external antiseptic and even at that, only after it had been made synthetically by the chemists.

But ever since October 1940, when he became the first to break the global medical taboo against injecting 'fungus slime excrement' into the temple of the human body, Dr Dawson had proven time and again natural systemic penicillin was safe and effective.

In time, when other forceful and powerful individuals took up his cause (like the WPB's Floyd Odlum, Cold Spring Harbour Laboratories' Miloslav Demerec , the Journal American's editor Paul Schoenstein, Pfizer boss John L Smith), the wartime world was soon awash in Dawson's natural systemic penicillin.

It's better-late-than-never arrival did much to save many wounded servicemen from D-Day onward and then to prevent the widespread postwar epidemics expected by wartime planners.

And in fact, to this very day, penicillin and all the lactam antibiotics, the bulk of our antibiotics, still start off by being growing naturally and taken internally for a body-wide (systemic) effect.

Used that way, they can save lives, while as Fleming's antiseptic, they can only help heal scraps on our children's knees, along with a kiss and a cookie.

Now it is true, Nobel committees often do honor forceful advocates over mere  hangdog discoverers.


In 1945, they so honored Dr Howard Florey for his Alpha Male style penicillin promotion work.

This despite the awkward fact that his forceful advocacy had actually delayed the badly needed production of wartime penicillin.

Florey insisted on backing his (supposed) British rival Fleming's dead horse of synthetic penicillin, long after his (supposed) American rival, Dr Dawson, had shown that the penicillium fungus could produce penicillin faster, cheaper and safer.

Dawson was terminally ill from the Fall of 1940 and died just before the end of the European portion of WWII.

This coupled with his personal modesty and lack of ego, prevented his story from becoming better known.

But if he failed to advocate on behalf of himself, his advocacy of the importance of recombinant DNA and systemic natural Penicillin can not be faulted...

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