Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Penicillin meeting is just the cover story for atomic bomb meeting

On December 17 1941, the medical wing of America's famous OSRD war research agency held a rare - possibly unique - meeting outside the Washington beltway.

Even rarer was the presence of one attendee, the boss of the OSRD himself, Vannevar Bush, never one to think war would be won by advances in medicine.

What on earth was really going on ?

Manhattan's twin wartime projects collide

Supposedly the meeting was held in New York city's highly exclusive University Club to please the CEOs of America's drug companies - but to do that , Chicago would have been a more central choice.

The head of the medical wing, Merck chief scientific consultant A N Richards , had really brought his committee to New York City solely as a favour to Bush.

Bush needed a suitable cover story for a series of meetings on something he felt far more important than Henry Dawson's little Manhattan based natural penicillin project.

Bush was finalizing a plan to ask FDR to approve a wartime atomic bomb as the top Allied war project : the atomic Manhattan Project.

So far most of America's atomic bomb research had happened at the same university where Dawson was doing his penicillin work : Columbia.

Its dean of science George Pegram and its Nobel winning physical chemist Harold Urey had just returned from a special fact finding mission to check out Britain's atomic efforts.

On their return their letter to Bush had made it clear the British plans were well advanced and that America needed to get on board or be left behind in strategic strength.

Bush was there in NYC to hear this confirmed in detail by Pegram - a man he trusted completely to be 'sound' .

Bush had to be sure , before he gave the red light to this hugely expensive project that would suck scarce resources from other (possibly war-winning) new weapons.

Bush gave so much money to Columbia for its atomic Manhattan Project work during the war - money that the entire university badly needed - that Columbia was completely willing to throw Dawson's penicillin Manhattan Project 'under the bus' when Dawson's efforts roused Bush and Richards' ire.

For in Manhattan , the twin projects Bomb/ death and penicillin/life intertwine constantly....

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