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The Development Of Penicillin (1928-1945)

Penicillin was an important medical significance. It was the

world's first true antibiotic. Penicillin was discovered by
Alexander Fleming (1881 1955).
Penicillin was discovered on September 18th, 1928. At the
time, Fleming was experimenting with the influenza virus
in St. Marys Hospital. He had just returned from a twoweek holiday to find that a mold had developed on an
accidentally contaminated staphylococcus culture plate. He
noticed that the mold prevented the growth of
staphylococci. The mold was described as a fluffy white
mass which rapidly increases in size and after a few days
sporulates and changes color.
In March 1942, Anne Miller became the first civilian patient
to be successfully treated with penicillin.
Dr. Howard Florey, was a professor of pathology who was
director of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at
Oxford University. In 1938, Florey, who had been very
interested in the ways that bacteria and mold naturally kill
each other, came across Flemings paper on the penicillium
mold. Dr. Ernst Chain, a biochemist, was one of Floreys
brightest employees.

During the summer of 1940, Florey and Chain's

experimented on a group of 50 mice that they had infected
with streptococcus. Half the mice died while the others,
which received penicillin injections, survived.
It took 2,000 liters of mold culture fluid to obtain enough
pure penicillin to treat a single case of sepsis in a person.
Albert Alexander, nicked his face working in his rose
garden. The scratch, infected with streptococci and
staphylococci, spread to his eyes and scalp. After five days
of injections, he began to recover. But Chain and Florey did
not have enough pure penicillin to fight off the infection,
and Alexander sadly died.
Dr. Norman Heatley, used every available container, bottle
and bedpan to grow large amounts of the penicillin mold,
suction off the fluid and develop ways to purify the
In 1941, Florey and Heatley flew to the United States,
where they worked with American scientists in Peoria, to
develop means of mass producing penicillin

From January to May in 1942, 400 million units of pure

penicillin were manufactured. By the end of the war,
American pharmaceutical companies were producing 650
billion units a month.

The discovery of penicillin changed the world of medicine

incredibly. With its development, infections that were
previously severe and often fatal could be easily treated.
Dating back to World War II soldiers experienced injuries
that would have been fatal without penicillin and other

Alexander Fleming was born on August 6, 1881 in the small
town of Darvel, in Scotland, UK.
He attended Louden Moor School, Darvel School, and
Kilmarnock Academy before moving to London. He was a
Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital, London.
Early in his medical life, he became interested in the
natural bacterial action of the blood and in antiseptics.
His parents, Hugh Fleming and Grace Stirling Morton, were
both from farming families. His father died when Alexander
was just seven years old.
Alexander lived in the home of an older brother, Tom, who
was a doctor of medicine. He attended the Polytechnic
School, where he studied business. He started in a class for

his age, but his teachers moved him into a class with boys
two years older than him and he finished school aged 16.
In 1903, aged 22, Alexander enrolled at Londons St Marys
Hospital Medical School, graduating with distinction three
years later as Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of