Research effects of father absence



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This child was born in Scotland in 1881 into a poor farm family. He was the seventh child of eight siblings and half-siblings. When he was seven years old, his father died. His mother and older siblings continued to run the farm. He attended a local rural grammar school, and for the most part was a hardworking, good student.

One day the boy had an accident on the school playground. He broke his nose, which was never fixed. This permanently gave him a face that looked a little like that of a boxer.

At age 14, he was sent far from home to live with one of his older brothers who lived in London, and who had gone on to medical school and become a doctor. Several other siblings later joined them.

He got a job as a shipping clerk, where he worked through the rest of his adolescent years. Then, when he was about 20, his uncle died, leaving him a small inheritance. This and a scholarship enabled him to return to school to study medicine as his older brother had done.

When he graduated, he obtained a job as a research bacteriologist in the same institution that had given him the scholarship. He interrupted work this for a time to serve as a physician in the army. In his mid-thirties, he married, and had one son, who also later became a physician.

In 1928 while he was working in his lab, he noticed a petri dish that had become contaminated with mold. The mold had killed off a staphylococcus culture that had been growing in the dish..

Seventeen years later, he won the Nobel Prize.

In his later life he said, in response to the folly of overly exalting teamwork that "It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject. The details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought, and perception of an individual."

He also said, commenting on life as much as research that "One sometimes finds what one is not looking for."

By the time of his death, the man who discovered penicillin -- the wonder drug that has saved countless lives -- had received worldwide recognition and numerous awards, lectured at the finest universities, been knighted by the Queen, and become an exemplar of scholarly achievement. He was

Alexander Fleming, a boy from a "fatherless home."

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* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.

"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson



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