Alexander Fleming: Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was born on the 6th August 1881 in Lochfield, Ayrshire, Scotland.  In 1901 studied at St.Mary’s Hospital Medical School, and in 1908 received a gold medal for achieving the status of top medical student.

His career plan was to become a surgeon, but a temporary position showed itself at St.Mary’s Inoculation Department in the field of Bacteriology.  He worked under Sir Almroth Edward Wright, understanding the field of vaccine therapy.

From 1914-1918, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, as a bacteriologist with Almroth Wright in Boulogne, France.  His research revealed that antiseptics did more harm than good, as the body’s lack of immunity to break down bacteria reduced.  He concluded soldiers were dying from antiseptic treatment, and put forward the idea, it would be more effective to keep wounds dry and clean … his suggestions were mostly ignored.

In 1918 Fleming became assistant director of St.Mary’s Inoculation Department.

In 1921, Fleming discovered Lysozyme an antiseptic enzyme be present in body fluids.  When a drop was added with bacteria, it had been dissolved.  This was the first step in breaking down mild bacteria and the understanding of the human immune system.

In September of 1928, he discovered a culture; Staphylococcus aureus, had been contaminated with mould, when left out under normal conditions (Penicillium Notatum) and colonies of Staphylococci around the mould had been destroyed.

Further development, with Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, scientists from the University of Oxford, isolated and purified Penicillin.

During World War Two, Penicillin came into use on the battlefield in the field of infection control.

In 1945, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain received the Nobel Prize for their work in the field of Physiology and Medicine.

In 1946 Fleming was appointed head of St.Mary’s Inoculation department, served as President of the Society for General Microbiology.

Alexander Fleming died of a heart-attack on the 11th March 1955 in London.

He left the world with a discovery which would save lives…

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