Alexander Fleming and the discovery of Penicillin

Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin. Penicillin was discovered by chance in his laboratory. The experiments surrounding the discovery of Penicillin led to it being recognised as potentially valuable. Fleming published his findings on the discovery and properties of Penicillin. These findings were later used by Florey and Chain to develop Penicillin into a mass produced medicine. During the Second World War the US Government financed work on the production of Penicillin as it had the potential to save many soldiers lives. 

Fleming. His discovery of Penicillin was a major medical breakthrough

Alexander Fleming’s research and the discovery of Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was a scientist who was working on staphylococci. These are the germs that make wounds go septic. Whilst cleaning the culture dishes one day he saw a mould growing on one of the plates. This in itself was not unusual, but on this occasion there were no germs growing around the growth. Curious as to what caused the germs to stop growing, and eager to find out what the mould was, Fleming grew more of it and experimented. He found that the mould acted against anthrax and diphtheria without creating any harmful side effects. This was the first occasion that an antibiotic drug had been developed (an antibiotic is something naturally produced by living organisms, rather than being a chemical compound). The new drug was a member of the penicillin notatum family, known popularly as penicillin.

Fleming however did little with his discovery. It wasn’t until 1935 when researchers Florey and Chain at Oxford University saw Fleming’s research papers that the drug was developed further.

Schoolshistory home – History teachers resources – Medical History Timelines – Liberal Reforms – Welfare State – The NHS – Alexander Fleming – Florey and Chain develop Penicillin – DNA and it’s impact on modern medicine

Medicine Through time – Resources for Medicine Through Time – Prehistoric Medicine – Ancient Egyptian Medicine – Ancient Greek Medicine – Medicine in the Roman Empire – Medieval Medicine – Renaissance Medicine – Public Health in the Industrial Revolution – Fight against infectious disease – Modern Medicine