23 August, 2008

Dr. Howard Florey (1898-1968)

Photo: Dr. Howard Florey and children.
-------- quoted from the book "Howard Florey; the making of a great scientist.
Oxford University Press.1980"

(1)Dr. Florey recorded:

There are a lot of misconceptions about medical research.
People sometimes think that I and the others worked on
peniciliin because we were interested in suffering humanity
--- I don't think it ever crossed our minds about suffering
humanity; this was an interesting scientific exercise.
Because it was some use in Medicine was very gratifying,
but this was not the reason that we started working on it.
It might have been in the background of our minds----
it's always in the background in people working in medical
subjects----- but that's not the mainspring.

(2)Dr. Robert.Gwyn.Macfarlane(1907-1987, a British hematologist,
described about Dr.Florey(Howard Florey; the making of a great
scientist.Oxford University Press.1980).
I first met Florey in 1938, when I was a junior pathologist at the British
Postgraduate Medical School, London, and he came there to give a lecture.
How many spellbinding speakers have I heard in the course of my life, and
how little do I remember of what they had to say !

Florey had none of the calculated rhetoric that makes the lecturer rather than
his subject memorable, but he described his research with a simple clarity
that was enthralling. Even after forty years I can recall much of what he told
us and the excitement of a new idea that he conveyed so quietly.

It was a style, I was to learn, that expressed his mode of work----
----- straightforward, logical exploration with none of the emotional
misdirection of pet theories or preconceived ideas, but always with that
underlying, infectious excitement of true discovery.

Two years later, I met him again under rather different circumstances.
I was then working at the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories
at Beckenham, and Florey came there to try to persuade the Director to take
up the large-scale production of a mould that most of us had never heard of,
but which Florey seemed sure would prove to be of paramount importance.
He went away disappointed. Although our laboratories were equipped for
such work and, in normal times, the results of his animal experiments might
have decided the issue in his favour, he could not compete with the demands
of war combined with the disruption caused by the blitz.

In 1941, when I went to Oxford as a hospital pathologist, I saw for myself
Florey`s reaction to this and other rebuffs from the British pharmaceutical
industry. He refused to accept defeat, and had created penicillin factory in
his own university department.

A few months later I saw, too, the vindication of this courageous venture
when the first effective trial of penicillin in human patients was carried out
with convincing success at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.

Finally, while in the army in 1944, I was able to see the almost miraculous
effect of penicillin in the treatment of battle casualties during the campaign
in Normandy and north-west Europe.

Any questions: write to Keiji Hagiwara, MD