It is an accepted fact that the work of Alexander Fleming in the discovery of Penicillin changed the world.
Alexander Fleming was born in Ayrshire on 6 August 1881, the son of a local farmer. He moved to London at the age of 13 and and went on to train as a doctor. He studied hard and qualified with distinction in 1906. He began doing research at St Mary's Hospital Medical School at the University of London under Sir Almroth Wright, who was a pioneer in vaccine therapy. However, during the First World War Alexander was 'called up' and served in the Army Medical Corps and was "mentioned in dispatches". At the end of the war, he returned to St Mary's and continued his research work.
In 1928, Alexander was studying influenza, and he noticed that mould had developed accidentally on a set of culture dishes being used to grow the staphylococci germ. The mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. He experimented further and named the active substance "penicillin".
However, it was two other scientists, Australian Howard Florey and Ernst Chain (a refugee from Nazi Germany), who developed penicillin further so that it could be produced as a drug. At first, supplies of penicillin were very limited, but by the 1940s it was being mass-produced by the American drugs industry.
It was this discovery and further development of the drug that has gone on to improve the lives of millions. Yes indeed, Penicillin changed the world.
Alexander wrote numerous papers on bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy. He was elected professor of the medical school in 1928 and emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of London in 1948. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1943 and knighted in 1944. In 1945 Fleming, Florey and Chain shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Fleming died on 11 March 1955.
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