Daily mythology II: Penicillin (logic, after “pencil”)


At first, the etymology of that word is mesmerizing: “penicilli” is Latin and means “little tail”, “Penis” just means “tail”. Already Cicero was complaining that that word was used for obscene purposes….Well, he complained in vain, until nowadays Penis is used *smile*. In Spain penis means “pene”. Our German “au-pair-girl”, staying in Madrid, saw a smile on the faces of her Spanish guests when she served self made “Penne al arrabiata”.
Some penicillin-mushrooms now look like small tails in the microscope, from where its name…..

Penicillin was discovered by accident. Oh, how I would like to do such a discovery on a sunny afternoon! Only in the year 1928 the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming found it. Did you know, that penicillin was unknown during World-War I ? Well, Mister Fleming put some streptococci in a glass and went for courses. When he came back, the whole was covered with a greenish mould and some bacterias where killed.
Later on, penicillin was synthesized. It turned out to be a wonderful medicine against wound-infection and other types of infections.
The Germans developed sulfonamides, but during the war didn’t give it to the allies, that fact accelerated the development of penicillin.
1941 the first test on a human took place: a policeman wounded himself by cutting roses (bravo! not while torturing) and this ended in blood poisoning. But five days after being treated with penicillin his fever vanished…
A dark chapter of science: In 1946 US-doctors infected over 1300 soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, without the informed consent of the subjects, but not in Houston, not in Atlanta or Chicago, no, in Guatemala! It resulted in 83 deaths. This is murder! An apology for it is not enough.


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