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Science’s spiral: from the birth of penicillin to the overuse of antibiotics

Michael Dooley.biogMichael Dooley recently rediscovered a crackly radio recording of his father – Mr Denis Dooley FRCS – talking to the BBC in 1945 about the wonderful new innovation – penicillin. Here he looks back at a time when antibiotic overuse is increasingly realised to be a risk to modern medicine.

I have for a long time believed that life learning is a spiral.

What you were taught initially is then disregarded only to be   ‘reinvented’ later on. It happens in so many areas of life. Throughout my medical career – of over 30 years – I have seen it in so many different areas both in medical and surgical specialities.

It is not as Elton John says ‘A circle of Life ‘ as we come round with new and different knowledge – hence a spiral.

This tape of my father Mr Denis Dooley FRCS  beautifully demonstrates my view.

It was recorded by the BBC radio in 1945 when he was working with Sir Alexander Fleming on penicillin. We found this crackly recording after my fathers death in his study and the content is fascinating.

Here he states that due to the shortage of supplies of penicillin it requires very careful individual case assessment before it is dispensed. Later on the use of penicillin was not controlled and it was and still is overused for both humans and animals.

The spiral has now come round. For different reasons – ie the development of penicillin resistant bacteria and the over use of antibiotics – we are now being encouraged to only prescribe penicillin and other antibiotics on carefully selected patients.

I do hope you enjoy the recording which is now been stored at The British Library.

I can think of many other ‘ spiral stories’ – if you have any please do share them with me and other College Members

My email is: mdooley@mdooley.co.uk

Michael Dooley
Hon Treasurer CoM