Penicillin Used in WWII Was Mass Produced in West Chester by Unsung Local Hero

Image via Bill Rettew, Digital First Media.

Penicillin used in World War II was mass produced in West Chester by G. Raymond Rettew, a local chemist who pioneered mass production of the indispensable medicine, writes Bill Rettew for the Daily Local News.

“This is a story that’s never been told,” said documentary filmmaker Doug Gahm. “Rettew’s genius has been lost in the history books.”

Along with his cousin, Deb Divine, Gahm will soon release a documentary on Rettew. As both are relatives of the chemist, the subject has special meaning to them.

Rettew was a mushroom expert who discovered a way to freeze and can the fungus. He then continued to tinker until he discovered a way to grow penicillin using his knowledge of growing mushroom spawn.

For 18 months, Rettew worked in his lab over the garage of his home on East Ashbridge Street, often deep into the night. Today, the home is owned by Christina Wilcomes.

Gahm is now hoping that everyone in Chester County will see the documentary and learn how important Rettew was.

“We’re hoping to change the history books a little bit,” he said.

Read more about G. Raymond Rettew in the Daily Local News here.

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