For ten months,(early September 1940-early July 1941) Columbia University had a clear lead on bringing mass produced penicillin to the world, but it blow it.
America had to give up its lead to Oxford University and the British. America lost the moral edge on this story.
But before Congress and the federal government bring out committees and commissions to investigate Columbia, it should remember it ,too, had a chance and it blew it.
"You sir, had a Choice"
Columbia and Washington may say 'we had no choice' but as Mulroney says, "you sir, had a choice."
During those same ten months, Columbia and America had another clear lead - in atomic energy.
This is the one that the federal government choose to fund, this is the one that Columbia administrators choose to find rooms for.
And as the Manhattan Project grew and grew, Columbia and the federal government found new rooms for it in the heart of Manhattan's traditional milk plant district, in north west Harlem, in the corridor connecting the downtown campus to the medical campus.
Even the Japanese hardly a milk-guzzling nation and totally cut off from all the events in Britain and America surrounding penicillin from 1940 to 1944, could instantly tell that every photo they could find of an interior of a penicillin plant looked like nothing but a typical milk plant.
Most of the world's first penicillin plants used the equipment,technologies,staff - and sometimes the very plants - of milk companies.
Columbia had the team - and very nearby it had the equipment, to start saving millions of lives, way back in 1941.
But it blew it - it morally blew it.
Columbia developed three world-shaking ideas on its campus during World War Two.
The Age of Antibiotics started there -millions of lives saved by the actions of a decorated frontline combat hero named Dawson.
With Adorno and Horkheimer's seminal text, in humble mimeographed form, the age of Postmodernity started there.
And the technology that powered the Cold War, on both sides, was started and perfected there - in that life-giving milk plant district - perfected by a life-long pacifist named Harold Urey.
Yes, most of the uranium that blew up Hiroshima was not made by Columbia's technology.
But the instance the war was over, the competing totally inefficient plants were closed and massive gas diffusion plants were built instead using Columbia's technology, to create the tens of thousands of bombs on all sides during the Cold War.
That same deadly uranium is still around, fashioned into today's current bombs.
Thanks Columbia, 'Home of the Cold War' !
Now if you went to the Columbia campus today , would you find a plaque to Dawson and Adorno or to Urey ?
You guessed right - Adorno and Dawson are non-persons but Urey and death are honored to the hilt at Columbia.
And in Washington.
The self-promoting Florey and Britain get all the moral glow of penicillin instead.
Columbia blew it - and it is still blowing it......