The role of the media in influencing public attitudes to penicillin during World War II
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Universidad de Granada
PenicillinWorld War IIRadio broadcastsPress reportsHomemade penicillinVivicillinPenicilinaII Guerra MundialRadioPrensaPenicilina caseraVivicilina
Shama, G. «The Role of the Media in Influencing Public Attitudes to Penicillin During World War II». Dynamis: Acta Hispanica Ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam, Vol. 35, Núm. 1, 1, p. 131-52. [http://dx.doi.org/10.4321/S0211-95362015000100006]
Penicillin’s trajectory towards becoming an effective antibacterial chemotherapeutic agent took place during World War II. Its strategic military value was immediately recognised by the Allies, and mass production was undertaken with the prime objective of meeting the needs of the armed forces. News of its development came to be widely reported on in the media and is examined here. These reports frequently combined accounts of penicillin’s prodigious clinical effectiveness with the fact that it was to remain unavailable to the civilian population essentially until the war had ended. More penicillin was to be made available to the civilian population in the United States than in Britain, but the sense that it was severely rationed remained as high. It was in response to this that the idea of «homemade penicillin» was hatched. News of this was also widely promulgated by both the British and American media. Although the numbers treated with penicillin produced in this way was never to be significant, knowledge of the existence of such endeavours may have served to assuage in some measure the feelings of frustration felt by the civilian population at penicillin’s non-availability.