Alexander Fleming: The Scientist Who Discovered Penicillin

Alexander Fleming is widely credited as the discoverer of penicillin, but his work toward that discovery was not without trial and error. Despite the difficulties he faced, Fleming ultimately opened the door to a new era of bacterial treatments that changed the lives of countless people worldwide.

Early Life of Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1881. He attended Louden Moor school and Kilmarnock Academy before enrolling at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, which opened his path to a career in science. While studying there, he made a name for himself as a top student in the Department of Bacteriology.

Fleming completed his studies and earned his degrees in 1906. He subsequently began working as a student assistant at St. Mary’s and gained valuable experience in the field of bacteriology. In 1915, Fleming was appointed Director of Inoculation Station, a National Service for the prevention of contagious diseases, at London’s Royal Army Medical College.

His Early Work in Antiseptic Development

Initially, Fleming worked in St. Mary’s lab on his development of antiseptics, a type of substance that helps prevent the spread of disease. In the course of his work, he identified a substance called lysozyme, an enzyme found in the human body.

He discovered that the substance, which is present in saliva, tears and mucus, has the ability to destroy bacteria. While this became a significant discovery on the potential of antibiotics, it was not effective enough to be used for the treatment of bacterial infections.

The Accidental Discovery of Penicillin

In 1928, Fleming’s laboratory was a cluttered mess and he was not particularly diligent in keeping it clean. On one occasion, he left some of his bacterial cultures, which were collecting dust, setting up a perfect environment for the growth of mold.

Returning to his lab one day, he noticed that a strange mold had grown on a petri dish. He examined it closely, finding that the surrounding bacterial colonies had been destroyed by the mold.

This was agar plate contamination was not an unlikely event, but a stroke of luck for Fleming. Intrigued by what he saw and determined to identify the cause of the mysterious mold, he discovered that it produced a substance called penicillin.

Fleming’s Penicillin Breakthrough

Because Fleming was a scientist and wanted to prove his hypothesis, he further studied the penicillin to test its effectiveness in treating bacterial infections. His tests yielded incredible results and he was able to prove conclusively that penicillin could be used to treat bacterial infections.

That same year, Fleming reported his findings in a scientific article, establishing him as the discoverer of the revolutionary antibiotic that offers treatment for many illnesses.

Penicillin by Howard Florey And Ernst Chain

Meanwhile, Sir Howard Florey, a professor at Oxford University, and Ernst Chain, a biochemist and research assistant to Florey, succeeded in continuing the research of Fleming.

The two scientists began to further develop penicillin, conducting a number of experiments and propagating the antibiotic on a larger scale than Fleming had been able to do. Their research ultimately proved penicillin’s immense effectiveness in treating infections and diseases like pneumonia, meningitis and gonorrhea.

In 1945, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their joint research on the discovery of penicillin.

The Impact of Penicillin After World War Two

Penicillin was first mass-produced during World War Two and proved to be an effective treatment in treating wounded soldiers. After the war, penicillin quickly became the go-to remedy for bacterial infections.

Moreover, the antibiotic changed the way doctors treat bacteria, opening a whole new field of medicine in which bacteria can be effectively treated. To this day, penicillin remains the most widely used antibiotic in the world, saving countless people from suffering and even death from infection.

The Legacy of Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming is credited with the discovery of penicillin and rightly so. His work and persistence in studying the strange mold that he found in his laboratory led to a revolutionary breakthrough in the treatment of bacteria.

For his hard work and dedication, Fleming was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1945, alongside Florey And Chain. However, Fleming’s contribution to medical advancements did not end there. He also discovered lysozyme, a substance that bears antibiotic-like properties, and conducted a huge number of other research projects in his lifetime.

Fleming’s Impacts on the Medical World

In the course of his lifetime, Alexander Fleming had a massive impact on the medical world – both during his life and long after his death.

Today, penicillin remains a reliable, go-to remedy for bacterial infections and is responsible for saving countless lives. Microorganisms have been evolving and have become resistant to many other antibiotics, but penicillin still remains the drug of choice to combat bacterial infections.

In recognition of his lifesaving breakthrough, Fleming has become one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century and a major role model for those wishing to pursue a career in the sciences.

Alexander Fleming’s pioneering discovery of penicillin proved to be an incredible breakthrough in the medical world and changed the lives of countless people worldwide. Fleming’s breakthroughs did not stop there, as he also discovered the enzyme lysozyme and conducted a wealth of research throughout his lifetime.

His work benefited the medical world immensely and his influence continues to be felt to this day. By paving the way for the discovery and mass-production of penicillin, Alexander Fleming’s legacy will live on forever as one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century.