Penecillin Molecule

Penicillin molecule original model
Penicillin molecule original model

Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming and used to treat the first patient in 1942, for streptococcal septicemia. Half of the total world supply at that time was used on that one patient.

Dorothy Hodgkin, who determined the chemical structure of penicillin
Dorothy Hodgkin, who determined the chemical structure of penicillin

In 1943, a worldwide search for the best strain of penicillin mold selected one found growing in a moldy cantaloupe in a grocery store in Peoria, IL. By the spring of 1944, the United States had produced 2.3 million doses, using mold sourced from that melon, in time for the invasion of Normandy.

During World War II, chemists cultured molds in pans and stacked them floor to ceiling in many labs to produce tiny amounts of penicillin, the only known antibiotic at that time. In spite of all they could do, it remained in such short supply that unmetabolized remnants of it were recycled from soldiers’ urine.

This 3D model of a penicillin molecule was made by Dorothy M Crowfoot Hodgkin, in England, in 1945, by interpreting patterns refracted by x-rays, known as x-ray crystallography. Having this model made it possible for John Sheehan at MIT to devise a method for synthesizing the antibiotic in 1957.

Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964 “for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances”.

Sources

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Saved by a Whale

This one’s different!

I’ve posted before about whales and dolphins who needed help and who sometimes even seemed to ask for it. And say thank you. Now it’s the lady scientist who needs help, only she doesn’t know it yet. A giant whale probably saves her life, because he knows something she doesn’t. She’s being stalked by a huge shark!

Certainly a scary experience, but fantastic!!! Something she can tell her grandchildren about!

Help Get Pruitt Out

Polluted EPA

Pruitt is head of the  Environmental Protection Administration. He is not a scientist and has fired most of the scientists that were in the department. He denies that climate change is a problem, and has said in the past that he wants to abolish the EPA.

Pruitt needs to be OUT before he does even more damage.

FFRF Is 40 Years Old

FFRF 40th Birthday Ad
FFRF’s Full-Page 40th Birthday Ad in the New York Times

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been fighting for 40 years to  keep religion and government separate throughout the United States, and no other organization is nearly as effective. You can join and help support their work for just $40.00 a year. $25.00, if you’re a student. You’ll get a subscription to their great, information-packed newspaper.

Tell them I sent you.*

*It won’t earn me any money, but tell them anyway.

My Two Favorite Books

Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-born American cognitive scientist, psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. This guy is a genuine big-brained hominid, one of the smartest people you’ll ever know, and he writes to convince his readers that our world is getting steadily better, century after century. And he proves it with facts!

Changes can be either good or bad. However, contrary to popular opinion, cultural changes around the world tend, on average, to be good, in the sense that they bring greater happiness, freedom, health, and prosperity to more ad more people.

His two latest books are possibly the two most important books I have ever read.:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Pinker shows that all down through history, for the past several thousand years, the world has been slowly  getting safer from violence of all kinds including muggings, rape, murder, and war, freer from disease, poverty, and superstition, more prosperous, better fed, and happier. These are real cultural changes that usually happen so slowly that most of us are not even aware of them. But our lives are much better now than they were back in the “good old days” when you might have had to get your appendix cut out by candlelight at 3 AM. With no anesthetic.

I recommend you read both books.