Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Penicillin synthesis : ancient & simply elegant , modern and crudely complicated

The fungus chemists have had 500 million years to get penicillin making down to an art and a science but to human chemists in the 1940s, it all was very new and puzzling.

No wonder then that the penicillium could make penicillin out of useless farm trash, with no expensive high-pressure-withstanding reactors, no expensive energy costs, no long lists of expensive chemical reagents, --- all done at normal temperatures and normal pressures in invisibly small microbe factories.

And that chemists in the 1940s needed huge factories with tons of high tech equipment, lots of carbon energy to heat up and cool down the process, dozens of highly refined chemical reagents - and lots of skill engineers  --- to make even the simplest of biologically active substances.

In human activities we expect the most experienced chemical firms to do things the economically and the most accurately - and companies new to any particular chemical trade to do everything the hard way and to get there by taking the longest route to the result.

Why then do we reverse these expectations when we compare experienced senior fungus chemists to inexperienced junior human chemists ?

Anthropocentrism - impure and unsimple

No comments:

Post a Comment