Sir Alexander Fleming; Bacteriologist
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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   Sir Alexander FlemingóBacteriologist

August 6, 1881, Loudon, Scotland, 2:00 AM, LMT. (Source: birth certificate, noted in Constellations, 1977; B.C. from Astrological Journal, Fall 1967) Died, March 11, 1955, London, England.

Ascendant, Cancer with Mercury in Cancer conjunct Ascendant; MC, Pisces; Sun in Leo; Moon in Sagittarius; Venus and Mars in Gemini; Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Taurus with Saturn conjunct Neptune also in Taurus; Uranus in Virgo conjunct the IC

British bacteriologist at the University of London, who discovered the mold from which penicillin was derived (1929). Along with Sir Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, received the 1945 Nobel prize in medicine for the development of the drug (1881-1955)

Bacteriologist who studied at St. Mary's hospital in London before teaching there from 1919.† Fleming was the first to use antityphoid vaccines on human beings and in 1928, he discovered penicillin.


A good gulp of hot whiskey at bedtime - it's not very scientific, but it helps.

One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.

If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life.


Sir Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming 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.

Fleming married 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.

Scottish bacteriologist 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.



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