As legend has it, Ernest Duchesne was a student at a French military medical school in the 1890s when he noticed that the hospital’s stable boys who tended the horses did something peculiar: They stored their saddles in a damp, dark room so that mold would grow on their undersurfaces. They did this, they explained, because the mold helped heal the horses’ saddle sores. Duchesne was fascinated and conducted an experiment in which he treated sick guinea pigs with a solution made from mold—a rough form of what we’d now call penicillin. The guinea pigs healed completely. Duchesne wrote up his findings in a thesis, but because he was unknown and young—only 23 at the time—the French Institut Pasteur wouldn’t acknowledge it. His research vanished, and Duchesne died 15 years later of tuberculosis (a disease that would someday be treatable with antibiotics). It would take 31 years for the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming to rediscover penicillin, independently and with no idea that Duchesne had already done it. In those three decades, untold millions of people died of diseases that could have been cured. Failed networks kill ideas.
Clive Thompson, Smarter Than you Think