AN ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY

Fleming’s accidental discovery and isolation of penicillin in September 1928 marks the start of modern antibiotic. His discovery of penicillin had changed the world of modern medicine by introducing the age of useful antibiotics; penicillin has saved, and is still saving, millions of people around the world.

Sir Alexander Fleming was born at Lochfield near Darvel in Ayrshire, Scotland on August 6th, 1881. After having attended London Moor School, Darvel School and Kilmarmock Academy, he moved to London where he attended the Polytechnic. He spent four years in a shopping office and then he entered St. Mary`s Medical School, London University, where he qualified with distinction in 1906.

Early in his medical life, Fleming became interested in the natural bacterial action of the blood and in antiseptics. He settled to work on antibacterial substances which would not be toxic to animal tissues. In 1921, he discovered an important bacteriolytic substance which he named Lysozyme. By 1928 Fleming was investigating the properties of staphyllococci. He had a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on vacation with his family. Before leaving he had stacked all his cultures of staphyllococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphyllococci that had immediately surrounded it had been destroyed, whereas other colonies further away were normal. Fleming identified the mould that had contaminated his culture plates as being from the Penicillium genus, and named the substance it released Penicillin on 7 March 1929.

“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer” Fleming said later “But I guess that was exactly what I did.”  Modern antibiotics are tested using a method similar to Fleming’s discovery.

by Manuel

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