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Looking backward to go forward

Posted on March 15th, 2011 by Stephen Hardy | No Comments | Print | RSS

My father died recently at 99. Needless to say, it causes you to reflect. Dad was a Doctor – a pathologist. As a student, his job at University was to look after the medicinal leeches. He saw the introduction of the sulfur drugs in the 1930’s, the first drugs in human history to effectively fight infectious diseases. Yet within 10 years, penicillin – the first true antibiotic – became widely available, rendering the sulfur drugs all but obsolete. He marvelled at the revolution in pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics and agri-chemicals that occurred after World War II. Took part in the British nuclear tests at Maralinga. Saw the wonders of heart, kidney, liver and lung transplants. And as his career drew to a close, the magic of genetic engineering and the ability to manipulate DNA – the very building blocks of life. Born just 8 years after the Wright brothers first flight, he saw the sound barrier broken, Neil Armstrong leave his footprints in the lunar dust and the Voyager spacecraft send back high-resolution images from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Over the course of his life the world’s human population grew from 1.7 billion to 6.8 billion to become the dominant life form on the planet. In one human lifetime – my father’s lifetime – humanity has moved from being at the mercy of nature to being a force of nature, free to shape and control the world. Read the rest of this entry »