viernes, 3 de octubre de 2014

About asthma, pride and unreasonable men

Asthma is a chronic and quite frequent disease of the respiratory system, characterized by an irregular and reversible constriction of the bronchi called bronchospasm. Bronchospasm leads to a blocking of the airways. For this reason, the main symptoms of asthma are cough, wheezing and a shortness of breath. If these symptoms, and all above the shortness of breath, become very accute, survival can be in serious risk.
Bronchospasm can be a consequence of many different circumstances. In most cases, it is related to allergies. But it can also evolve from other chronic respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis or tuberculosis.

The most common substance used to the treatment of asthmatic crisis is the (RS)-4-[2-(tert-butylamino)-1-hydroxyethyl]-2-(hydroxymethyl)phenol. Obviously, everybody calls this product by its common name, salbutamol, or even by its commercial name, Ventolin. Salbutamol is a selective β2-receptor agonist, that activates the dilation of bronchi. This is, in fact, the most typical way to fight against the grave symptoms of the disease.

Eddie Adam with his famous picture
Ventolin was marketed by Allen and Handburys Company in 1968. This year, Eddie Adams won the Pulitzer Prize. Using his Leica M4 Leica, he had taken the photograph of Police Chief General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a Vietcong prisoner in the middle of the street, in Saigon.

Leica was, at that time, the best rated camera manufacturer. This company has produced not only the most famous cameras in History, but also the first portable model.

This device was developed by a German optical engineer called Oskar Barnack. In 1912 he designed and constructed a 35mm movie camera. Until that time, cameras were huge, heavy devices, quite  difficult to transport and use.

Oskar had been working for Ernest Leitz, the owner of Leica Company, for years. Oskar proposed to Leitz the industrial production this type of camera.
Oskar Barnack
In 1925 the first commercial Leica portable camera was released. This year, the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw won the Novel Prize for Literature. One of the most famous quotes of Bernard Shaw says that “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persist in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

Oskar Barnak was, probably, an unreasonable man. He loved taking photos outdoors. But this activity was absolutely exhausting for him, because he was asthmatic, and carrying that heavy machinery was extremely tiring. Instead of changing his hobby and adapting himself to the world, he decided to fight against his fate and invented a device that, literally, changed the world.

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