was born in 1881 at Lochfield, a farm outside Darvel, a small town in
Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the third child, with seven other brothers
and sisters. After completing his education at Regent Street Polytechnic,
London in 1897, he took an office job for a few years. In 1901, he quit
his job and went to St. Mary Hospital to study medicine. He then worked
in Almroth Wright's research team as a research assistant with a strong
interest in bacteriology. During the war between Britain and Germany
in 1914, Fleming joined the British Royal Army Medical Corps to develop
a cure to reduce the number of soldiers dying from infected wounds.
He argued that antiseptics were not effective in preventing wounds from
becoming infected. His argument was, however, rejected and little was
done to relieve the suffering of many wounded soldiers.
When World War I was over, Fleming continued working at St. Mary's Hospital.
One day in 1928, before tossing some old petri dishes of culture away,
he made an accidental discovery of a blue mold growing on the culture
of some harmful kind of bacteria. The mold seemed to be able to kill
off the bacteria. A series of experiments later proved his findings
and led to the discovery of penicillin. It was a strain of penicillia
which could kill off bacteria while not causing any damage to wounds.
It worked against many kinds of bacteria and was mostly safe for the
human body. Unfortunately, with insufficient support from the medical
community, the research had to stop.
Finally in the late 1930s, other scientists found a way to mass-produce
penicillin. British and American drug companies began to manufacture
the drug in large quantites. It was then used to cure many infections
during World War II. In 1945, Fleming was presented the Nobel Prize
for Medicine. He humbly said, "Nature makes penicillin; I just
found it." Fleming spent the rest of his career at St. Mary's Hospital
until his death in 1955 of a sudden heart attack. Fleming was married
twice and had one son.
Sir Alexander Fleming
was born at Lochfield near Darvel in Ayrshire, Scotland on August 6th,
1881. He attended Louden Moor School, Darvel School, and Kilmarnock
Academy before moving to London where he attended the Polytechnic. He
spent four years in a shipping office before entering St. Mary's Medical
School, London University. He qualified with distinction in 1906 and
began research at St. Mary's under Sir Almroth Wright, a pioneer in
vaccine therapy. He gained M.B., B.S., (London), with Gold Medal in
1908, and became a lecturer at St. Mary's until 1914. He served throughout
World War I as a captain in the Army Medical Corps, being mentioned
in dispatches, and in 1918 he returned to St.Mary's. He was elected
Professor of the School in 1928 and Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology,
University of London in 1948. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society
in 1943 and knighted in 1944.
Early in his medical
life, Fleming became interested in the natural bacterial action of the
blood and in antiseptics. He was able to continue his studies throughout
his military career and on demobilization he settled to work on antibacterial
substances which would not be toxic to animal tissues. In 1921, he discovered
in «tissues and secretions» an important bacteriolytic substance
which he named Lysozyme. About this time, he devised sensitivity titration
methods and assays in human blood and other body fluids, which he subsequently
used for the titration of penicillin. In 1928, while working on influenza
virus, he observed that mould had developed accidently on a staphylococcus
culture plate and that the mould had created a bacteria-free circle
around itself. He was inspired to further experiment and he found that
a mould culture prevented growth of staphylococci, even when diluted
800 times. He named the active substance penicillin.
Sir Alexander wrote
numerous papers on bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy, including
original descriptions of lysozyme and penicillin. They have been published
in medical and scientific journals.
He served as President
of the Society for General Microbiology, he was a Member of the Pontifical
Academy of Science and Honorary Member of almost all the medical and
scientific societies of the world. He was Rector of Edinburgh University
during 1951-1954, Freeman of many boroughs and cities and Honorary Chief
Doy-gei-tau of the Kiowa tribe. He was also awarded doctorate, honoris
causa, degrees of almost thirty European and American Universities.
In 1915, Fleming
married Sarah Marion McElroy of Killala, Ireland, who died in 1949.
Their son is a general medical practitioner.
again in 1953, his bride was Dr. Amalia Koutsouri-Voureka, a Greek colleague
at St. Mary's.
In his younger days
he was a keen member of the Territorial Army and he served from 1900
to 1914 as a private in the London Scottish Regiment.
Dr Fleming died
on March 11th in 1955 and is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.
born Aug. 6, 1881,
Lochfield, Ayr, Scot.
died March 11, 1955, London, Eng.
whose discovery of penicillin (1928) prepared the way for the highly
effective practice of antibiotic therapy for infectious diseases. Fleming
shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Ernst
Boris Chain and Howard Walter Florey, who both (from 1939) carried Fleming's
basic discovery further in the isolation, purification, testing, and
quantity production of penicillin.
After taking his
degree at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, London University (1906),
Fleming conducted experiments to discover antibacterial substances that
would be nontoxic to human tissues. He continued his research while
serving with distinction in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War
I. In 1918 he returned to research and teaching at St. Mary's; he became
Hunterian professor (1919) and Arris and Gale lecturer (1928) at the
Royal College of Surgeons.
In 1921 Fleming
identified and isolated lysozyme, an enzyme found in certain animal
tissues and secretions, such as tears and saliva, that exhibits antibiotic
activity. While working with Staphyloccus bacteria in 1928, Fleming
noticed a bacteria-free circle around a mold growth (spores of Penicillium
notatum) that was contaminating a culture of the staphylococci. Investigating,
he found a substance in the mold that prevented growth of the bacteria
even when it was diluted 800 times. He called it penicillin. Fleming
found that penicillin is nontoxic but that it inhibits the growth of
many types of disease-causing bacteria. He was aware of the significance
of his discovery, but he lacked the necessary chemical means to isolate
and identify the active compound involved. He was thus unable to obtain
a sufficient quantity of penicillin for use on humans. It was not until
12 years later, during World War II, that the pressing need for new
antibacterial drugs provided the impetus for Chain and Florey's active
development of penicillin.
Fleming was elected
a fellow of the Royal Society in 1943 and knighted in 1944.