195o Fifty Years Ago

July 2017

Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity

In a November 11 news item titled SUGAR HANDY AID FOR A-BOMB VICTIMS , Science News Letter reported that America’s resourceful sugar industry had found a promising new atomicage market for its product: “future atom bomb victims.” According to the magazine, Dr. Robert C. Hackett of the Sugar Research Foundation had told a conference that “dextran, a water-white mucilaginous compound produced only from sugar by the action of certain bacteria… could be used as a substitute for blood plasma,” which would be in great demand in the vicinity of ground zero. In addition, invert sugar (“a liquid mixture of dextrose and levulose easily made from common sugar”) would make an ideal food “for patients who cannot eat and must be nourished by solutions injected into their veins.”

A week earlier, the same publication had passed along some encouraging news about the biological effects of nuclear war. At a conference in London, scientists had agreed that “rays from atomic bombs would not cause any more grotesque types of human being than those now known, but mutations would simply occur more often.…Atomic warfare would not give rise to new and fearsome races of human monsters in future generations.” As Dr. G. C. Catcheside, a genetics researcher at Cambridge University, explained: “Geneticists would not expect any more bizarre types following irradiation (as at Nagasaki and Hiroshima) than would turn up naturally.” The magazine reported this reassuring conclusion under the headline NO NEW TYPES OF FREAKS .