- Historic Sites
World War II: Plasma, Penicillin, And Insecticides
October/november 1984 | Volume 35, Issue 6
To meet the tremendous demand for plasma once the war began, the American Red Cross asked Charles Francis Drew to establish a system for collecting blood from the civilian population. He opened collection centers across the United States; then, when the Army later told the Red Cross to keep non-Caucasian blood separate from other donations, Drew, a black, resigned.
Three other major advances occurred because of the war. The introduction of high-speed, high-altitude aircraft forced the development of oxygen systems and pressure suits, which were later used in civilian aviation and in the space program. Penicillin went into production on a vast scale and was used to treat pneumonia, wound infection, meningitis, gonorrhea, and syphilis. And wartime research produced new drugs to combat malaria and new insecticides, notably DDT, which drastically reduced deaths from typhus.