Saturday, August 22, 2015

The OTHER Manhattan Project : Dawson's "Small is Bountiful"

In 1940, the scientific maxim on everyone's lips was hardly "small is bountiful" and "we must protect biodiversity and the gene pool at all costs".

Instead it was "bigger is better" --- who can forget the Thirties absolute mania for breaking records of all sorts and for seeking ever bigger dams, bridges, factories, tanks, battleships, bombers, science projects, what have you.

The Universe, as was known in 1940, was certainly doing its part --- it had started off very small and very hot and very active and would end up someday very big, very cold and very inactive.

A clearly negative example for the case that "bigger is better", for here bigger only meant deader.

But adherents to this dogma (ie 80 % of the world elite opinion) weren't about to accept any such evidence to the contrary.

"Bigger being better", circa 1940, meant that the small and the simple were seen as the losers in the race of progress - mere 'wastes of space' and 'useless mouths' and 'lives unworthy of life'.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson had disagreed with this scientific consensus for a long, long time and in October 1940, he finally saw a chance to throw down his gauntlet and challenge it full bore.

He suspected the small penicillium fungus could do a better job making lifesaving penicillin, through sheer dint of effort over hundreds of millions of years, than could a dozen of the world's biggest laboratories, filled with The Smartest Chemists in the Universe, with only a few months to work their magic.

And today most of us accept that this Earth is indeed really the microbes' world and we humans are "just visiting", and briefly at that.

The Small microbes definitely were Bountiful and decidedly clever.

Dawson further suspected that the world's 4Fs and the population generally at the bottom half of society had a lot to offer the world, even to a world at war and currently transfixed on only what the top drawer people and the 1As could do.

In 1940, 'cripples' like Stephen Hawking would have been gassed in a Mayfair moment, by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Adolf Hitler.

But Dawson cherished all life, from the physically fit and mentally dim to the physically twisted and intellectually brilliant --- and all points in between.

The Small were Bountiful and Beautiful.

Who, after all, today votes to all-out drain the gene pool, kill most species to reduce biodiversity and forbids civil rights to non majority group minorities ?

(Besides Harper Conservatives and Trump Republicans, I mean.)

These ideas are commonplaces of ordinary conversation today, the bromides of electioneering politicians and the cliches of editorial writers well past their due date.

But they weren't in 1940 --- someone had to get the ball rolling and it was Henry Dawson who first started the job...

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