I should certainly be mobbed

May 11, 2008 at 10:19 am (Miscellaneous) (, , )

I was reading a book on Porton Down called From Biological Warfare to Healthcare when I came across a letter written by Sir Paul Gordon Fildes (OBE, MB, Hon. ScD Cantab, Reading, FRS). Fildes was head of the Biology Department from 1940-1946 and according to the book Fildes’s team at Porton Down “made a huge leap in the understanding of the behaviour of pathogenic microorganisms in the environment, notably the air”. Fildes had agreed to become involved in wartime work at Porton Down on the condition that his involvement remain secret. Fildes’s link to Porton was made public through an obituary in The Times and he was again linked by a booklet handed out at public open days at Porton Down that revealed Fildes had let the wartime team at Porton Down. Fildes was furious and wrote to the then Director of Biological and Chemical Defence, Gerald Heath. From the book:

Fildes complained of his name being mentioned in The Times and felt most uncomfortable about accepting the invitation sent to all members of BRAB [Biological Research Advisory Board] to attend the open days. He wrote “of 1800 visitors I am liable to meet 600, many of them unwashed … I should certainly be mobbed.” He continued his letter with a section warning against what he perceived to be the dangers of giving unfettered access to MRE [Microbiological Research Establishment] by the public, concluding:”I don’t think I can accept the invitation to attend. I can’t come in disguise.” In view of this response, it is likely that his anger would have been provokedd the previous year had he seen the article on MRE in Chemistry and Industry by Dr C.E. Gordon Smith which also noted Fildes’s contribution!

The first thing this passage made me think of was Mourinho leaving Chelsea and saying that he could not go back because he would be smothered by the fans (“I would love to gather all the fans together to say goodbye but they would crush me with their love”) – but I’m not sure whether Fildes was worried about being mobbed by well-wishers or ill-wishers. To be honest, I’m just a little bit disappointed that more of the letter wasn’t revealed to us by the authors Peter M Hammond and Gradon B Carter – the two lines they did include were fantastic.

More on Paul Fildes:
In Time in 1942, Fildes discovery of the mechanism of sulfa therapy is discussed.
Wikipedia has a brief bio here: Paul Fildes.
Speculation on Fildes’s and Porton Down’s involvement with the death of ‘top Nazi’ Reinhard Heydrich is here.
More here at PBS: Bio.

And a bit more about the former Director of Biological and Chemical Defence, Gerald Heath here: Hampton Residents.

1 Comment

  1. Jerry said,

    The link to Fildes and Heydrich showed that Heydrich died from Botulinum poisoning, which is still dangerous now. Don’t worry though – an antidote is ‘closer’! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7395731.stm

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