With his discovery of penicillin from the mold “Penicillium notatum,” Alexander Fleming, a famous Scottish scientist and pharmacologist, paved the door for antibiotic treatments. Fleming’s findings gave mankind new hope in the fight against certain diseases and the treatment of bacterial infections. Fleming’s contributions to bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy are documented in his writings. In 1945, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his exceptional and groundbreaking discovery. The great man’s influence was so enormous that his name was included in a list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century as recently as 1999. Today’s penicillin enhancements are based on one man’s mission, and that guy is none other than Alexander Fleming. Fleming cleared the way for the prevention and treatment of deadly ailments such as syphilis, gangrene, and tuberculosis, which were never thought to be treatable until Fleming’s findings.
Childhood and Adolescence
Alexander Fleming was born on August 6, 1881, in Lochfield Farm, Avrshire, Scotland. Hugh Fleming and Grace Stirling Morton, both farmers, raised him (second wife of Hugh Fleming). He lost his father due to illness when he was only seven years old.
Fleming attended Loudoun Moor School and Darvel School before moving to London at the age of thirteen to attend the Royal Polytechnic after winning two Kilmarnock Academy scholarships.
In 1903, he joined St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School (Paddington) to study medicine, following in his elder brother Tom’s footsteps, and graduated with an MBBS degree in 1906.
Alexander Fleming served as an assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright, a master in vaccine therapy and immunology, in the Research department at St Mary’s.
After receiving a gold medal in bacteriology, Fleming joined St Mary’s as a lecturer in 1908 and remained there until 1914. Between 1909 and 1914, Fleming worked as a venereologist. He was the first doctor to administer arsphenamine, a syphilis treatment (Salvarsan).
He was appointed professor of bacteriology at the University of London in 1928.
He was a part of the Royal Army Medical Corps as a captain during the World War I and worked in the war field hospitals in France where he examined the effect of antiseptics on the wounds.
He returned to St. Mary’s as assistant director of the immunization department, later becoming the school’s principal in 1946, when it was renamed Wright-Fleming Institute.
He became rector of the University of Edinburg for three years in 1951.
Major Projects of Alexander Fleming
Antiseptics cause more harm than good: In 1914, while working in the field hospitals of World War I, he came to the opinion that antiseptics like carbolic acid, boric acid, and hydrogen peroxide (used to treat wounds) cause more harm than benefit. He observed that they only treated superficial wounds and failed to heal deeper. He proposed saline water as a therapy option, together with Almroth Wright.
Lysozyme Is Discovered
The antiseptic enzyme lysozyme was discovered in November 1921. Fleming accidentally spilled a drop of mucus from his nose on a bacteria culture. He blended it and analyzed it for a few days in order to determine its influence on bacterial development, leading to this significant discovery for mankind.
Other body fluids, such as saliva and tears, were tested with these germs and bacterial growth was seen to be inhibited, resulting in natural immunity to a variety of health conditions.
Lysozyme is currently used to treat cold and throat infections, athlete’s foot, and as a food preservative.
Penicillin Was Discovered
After witnessing many troops die of Sepsis during World War I, Fleming became engrossed in his hunt for antibacterial agents after learning that antiseptics affected the immune system in the long term.
Fleming had devoted himself to studying staphylococci since 1927. On September 3, 1928, it was discovered by chance when one of his fungus-infected staphylococci cultures destroyed all of the adjacent staphylococci cultures, but other staphylococci colonies further away were normal.
He identified this mould as belonging to the Penicillium genus, which inhibited bacterial growth, after further examinations and testing.
On March 7, 1929, he dubbed the substance it generated Penicillin, after initially calling it “mould juice.”
Despite the fact that he had found penicillin, Fleming was still plagued by the task of stabilizing, purifying, and mass-producing it. He experimented with penicillin until 1940, when he stopped.
Following Fleming’s decision to stop working on penicillin, Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford began working on it with funding from the US and the British governments.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, mass production finally began, resulting in a level of output that has changed the face of battlefield medicine and infection control since 1944.
Achievements & Awards
In 1945, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was shared by Alexander Fleming, Florey, and Chain.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England bestowed upon him the Hunterian Professorship, and he holds a number of honorary degrees from colleges around the United States and Europe.
He went on to become president of the Society for General Microbiology and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Fleming was an honorary member of practically every medical and scientific society in the world.
The Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum in St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, houses the laboratory where Fleming discovered penicillin.
One of the main preclinical teaching areas of Imperial College School of Medicine is the ‘Sir Alexander Fleming Building.’
Alexander Fleming House is one of the residential halls at the Royal Polytechnic Institution (now the University of Westminster).
Penicillin was named the most important discovery of the millennium by three prominent Swedish periodicals by the year 2000.
Personal History and Enduring Legacy
Alexander Fleming married Sarah Marion McElroy of Ireland, a skilled nurse, on December 24, 1915. Robert, their only son, was born in 1924 and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor.
In 1944, King George VI knighted Fleming as Knight Bachelor, transforming him into Sir Alexander Fleming.
Following Sarah’s death in 1949, Fleming remarried on April 9, 1953, to Dr.Amalia Koutsouri-Vourekas, a colleague at St. Mary’s who died in 1986.
Fleming died of a heart attack on March 11, 1955, at the age of 73, and was cremated in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Fleming was always humble about his part in the discovery of penicillin, referring to his fame as the “Fleming Myth.” “.. Despite this, he constantly lauded Florey and Chain and went on to become the modern-day hero of healthcare.
Sir Henry Harris’ statement sums it everything: “Without Fleming, there would be no Chain; without Chain, there would be no Florey; without Florey, there would be no Heatley; without Heatley, there would be no penicillin.”
This famous scientist and Nobel Prize laureate was offered a present of $100,000 as a gesture of respect during his tour of America, which he declined and instead donated to the laboratories at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School.