The Great War Invention

Dec 20, 2014

RAY: The time: World War II. The place: England. In a secret laboratory, a small group of scientists is working on a project. They have made a discovery! Something that they know will greatly aid in the Allied effort against the Germans.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: Furthermore, they know that their discovery will also benefit mankind for years to come, and could easily turn the tide of the war.

In with this group is a German scientist who has escaped the clutches of the Nazis, and he's collaborating on a project that was abandoned by a Scottish scientist more than 10 years earlier. And they know that they have something big here, and they apply to the British government for a grant. But when the grant comes through it’s only 50 pounds.

They realize the only hope of getting their product involved in the war effort is to leave England and go to America. But that’s dangerous because the U-boats are out there. So they decide to go to a neutral country: Portugal. They go to Lisbon, where they hope to catch a boat to America which will be safe from the U-boats because it's flying the Portuguese flag.

Now, they know that if their discovery falls into the wrong hands, it will be severe. So they take their discovery and they hide it on their clothing. They make their way by sea to America, and the rest, as they say, is history. So, what is this great discovery?

TOM: Something that is on your clothing and is undetectable?

RAY: Chicken soup!

TOM: It's got to be mustard.

RAY: What is this discovery that could easily have changed the whole tide of the war? And the hint was, chicken soup.

TOM: Oh. That was a hint!?

RAY: Well, so to speak.


RAY: Well, they knew, as most military students knew, that the greatest cause of fatalities in warfare is not the actual gunshot wound, but it's the ensuing infection. And the work they took up had been started in the '20s by a Scotsman named Alexander Fleming, I believe. And what he had discovered by accident was penicillin. But he could never do anything with it because he couldn't develop a strain of it that was reproducible.

But these guys had, and when they had the penicillin mold, rather than carrying it in little petri dishes, they decided that if they were apprehended by Nazis ...

TOM: They rubbed it on their clothes.

RAY: They had it on their clothes so that when they got to America, they could do a little scraping. And that's in fact what they did, and, of course, it saved many lives. Do we have a winner?

TOM: We do! The winner is Malaise Lindenfeld from Coconut Grove, Florida. Congratulations!

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