Tuesday, January 10, 2017

did Pfizer boss John L Smith and penicillin pioneer Dr MH Dawson EVER actually meet ?

I have found no evidence, yet, that the two people most responsible for making penicillin WWII's only 'Good News Story' ever actually met in person -- or even ever talked over the phone.

Despite working only a few miles apart in New York City!

Communicated by letter yes - at least once - for sure.

But communication indirectly - via a least two highly trusted confidants - many times.

Dawson's closest co-worker, Dr Gladys Hobby, seemed to have hit it off with Pfizer personnel from the very start.

After all, in the almost-all alpha male world of 1940s science she definitely stuck out : young, pretty, very smart and perhaps most importantly, charming in a way the sometimes frank and often passionate Dawson never could be amongst the alpha crew.

She was hired by Pfizer in late 1943.

As one of the four in America with the longest experience with natural penicillin, she could offer highly experienced advice on Pfizer's plans to greatly expanded natural penicillin production in early 1944.

Dr Hobby continued to teach part time at Columbia and to stay in close contact with Dawson and his post-Hobby penicillin team.

The first person from Pfizer to ever lay eyes upon Dawson and his pioneering penicillin research was a fellow Canadian and a senior employee very near the top of the Pfizer technical staff : John L Davenport.

 Davenport was a native of Owen Sound Ontario and a 1929 graduate of University of Toronto chemical engineering, forced by the onset of the Depression to seek research employment outside of his native land - just as Dawson had had to do about the same time.

Davenport and Dawson thus had much in common, 1920s Canadian immigrant scientists in the research world of wartime NYC, and Davenport was probably Dawson's most reliable conduit with Pfizer between mid 1941 and late 1943.

Pfizer boss John L Smith, himself a childhood immigrant from Germany, undoubtedly admired Dawson's highly moral stance on penicillin and his unceasing hard work despite the physical pain from his terminal illness.

But he also probably thought Dawson's unceasing demands for the Allies to ramp up natural penicillin - now ! - to be that of the typically impractical university research scientist.

Though in truth, Dawson had earlier built a pilot plant sized penicillin operation inside his hospital, in his "spare" time - shaming all of Big Pharma, Pfizer included, in the process.

So the pair were a lot more alike than both might admit.

I believe that John L - a shy, demanding and taciturn boss - probably welcomed Davenport and Hobby doing what didn't come easy to him by being the personal link between his thinking and that of Dr Dawson...

No comments:

Post a Comment