Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming

Overview
Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 188111 March 1955) was a Scottish biologist
Biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...

 and pharmacologist. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. His best-known discoveries are the discovery of the enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

 lysozyme
Lysozyme
Lysozyme, also known as muramidase or N-acetylmuramide glycanhydrolase, are glycoside hydrolases, enzymes that damage bacterial cell walls by catalyzing hydrolysis of 1,4-beta-linkages between N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine residues in a peptidoglycan and between...

 in 1923 and the antibiotic
Antibiotic
An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

 substance penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

 from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain
Ernst Boris Chain
Sir Ernst Boris Chain was a German-born British biochemist, and a 1945 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on penicillin.-Biography:...

.

In 1999, Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine named Fleming one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century
Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century
Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century is a compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people, published in Time magazine in 1999....

 for his discovery of penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

, and stated:

Fleming was born on 6 August 1881 at Lochfield, a farm near Darvel
Darvel
Darvel is a small town in East Ayrshire, Scotland, located at the eastern end of the Irvine Valley and is sometimes referred to as "The Lang Toon" due to its quaint appearance on Ordnance Survey maps....

 in Ayrshire
Ayrshire
Ayrshire is a registration county, and former administrative county in south-west Scotland, United Kingdom, located on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. Its principal towns include Ayr, Kilmarnock and Irvine. The town of Troon on the coast has hosted the British Open Golf Championship twice in the...

, Scotland.
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Encyclopedia
Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 188111 March 1955) was a Scottish biologist
Biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...

 and pharmacologist. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. His best-known discoveries are the discovery of the enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

 lysozyme
Lysozyme
Lysozyme, also known as muramidase or N-acetylmuramide glycanhydrolase, are glycoside hydrolases, enzymes that damage bacterial cell walls by catalyzing hydrolysis of 1,4-beta-linkages between N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine residues in a peptidoglycan and between...

 in 1923 and the antibiotic
Antibiotic
An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

 substance penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

 from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain
Ernst Boris Chain
Sir Ernst Boris Chain was a German-born British biochemist, and a 1945 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on penicillin.-Biography:...

.

In 1999, Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine named Fleming one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century
Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century
Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century is a compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people, published in Time magazine in 1999....

 for his discovery of penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

, and stated:

Early life


Fleming was born on 6 August 1881 at Lochfield, a farm near Darvel
Darvel
Darvel is a small town in East Ayrshire, Scotland, located at the eastern end of the Irvine Valley and is sometimes referred to as "The Lang Toon" due to its quaint appearance on Ordnance Survey maps....

 in Ayrshire
Ayrshire
Ayrshire is a registration county, and former administrative county in south-west Scotland, United Kingdom, located on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. Its principal towns include Ayr, Kilmarnock and Irvine. The town of Troon on the coast has hosted the British Open Golf Championship twice in the...

, Scotland. He was the third of the four children of Hugh Fleming (1816–1888) from his second marriage to Grace Stirling Morton (1848–1928), the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. Hugh Fleming had four surviving children from his first marriage. He was 59 at the time of his second marriage, and died when Alexander (known as Alec) was seven.

Fleming went to Loudoun Moor School and Darvel School, and earned a two-year scholarship to Kilmarnock Academy
Kilmarnock Academy
Kilmarnock Academy is a comprehensive school, one of several in Kilmarnock, a town in western Scotland. It can trace its history back to the local burgh school founded in the 1630s and the first school to bear the name was established in 1807...

 before moving to London, where he attended the Royal Polytechnic Institution
University of Westminster
The University of Westminster is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom. Its origins go back to the foundation of the Royal Polytechnic Institution in 1838, and it was awarded university status in 1992.The university's headquarters and original campus are based on Regent...

. After working in a shipping office for four years, the twenty-year-old Fleming inherited some money from an uncle, John Fleming. His elder brother, Tom, was already a physician and suggested to his younger sibling that he follow the same career, and so in 1903, the younger Alexander enrolled at St Mary's Hospital Medical School
St Mary's Hospital Medical School
St Mary's is the youngest of the constituent schools of Imperial College, London, founded in 1854 as part of the new hospital in Paddington. During its existence in the 1980s and 90s, it was the most popular medical school in the country, with an application to place ratio of 27:1 in 1996.St Mary's...

 in Paddington
Paddington
Paddington is a district within the City of Westminster, in central London, England. Formerly a metropolitan borough, it was integrated with Westminster and Greater London in 1965...

. He qualified MBBS
MBBS
MBBS was a popular BBS system in the Nordic countries during the mid-1990s. It was created by a team of Oslo-based enthusiasts, led by Mike Robertson. As many BBS systems of that era, it was only available for the DOS platform. Since one process could only handle one node, multitaskers such as...

 from the school with distinction in 1906.

By chance, however, he had been a member of the rifle club (he had been an active member of the Volunteer Force
Volunteer Force (Great Britain)
The Volunteer Force was a citizen army of part-time rifle, artillery and engineer corps, created as a popular movement in 1859. Originally highly autonomous, the units of volunteers became increasingly integrated with the British Army after the Childers Reforms in 1881, before forming part of the...

 since 1900). The captain of the club, wishing to retain Fleming in the team suggested that he join the research department at St Mary's, where he became assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright
Almroth Wright
Sir Almroth Edward Wright, KBE, CB was a British bacteriologist and immunologist.He is notable for developing a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation, recognizing early on that antibiotics would create resistant bacteria and being a strong advocate for preventive medicine.-Biography:Wright was...

, a pioneer in vaccine
Vaccine
A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins...

 therapy and immunology. He gained a BSc with Gold Medal in 1908, and became a lecturer at St Mary's until 1914. On 23 December 1915, Fleming married a trained nurse, Sarah Marion McElroy of Killala
Killala
Killala is a village in County Mayo in Ireland, north of Ballina. The railway line from Dublin to Ballina once extended to Killala. To the west of Killala is a Townsplots West , which contains numerous ancient forts.- History :...

, County Mayo
County Mayo
County Mayo is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the village of Mayo, which is now generally known as Mayo Abbey. Mayo County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county is 130,552...

, Ireland.

Fleming served throughout World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps
Royal Army Medical Corps
The Royal Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

, and was Mentioned in Dispatches
Mentioned in Dispatches
A soldier Mentioned in Despatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which is described the soldier's gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy.In a number of countries, a soldier's name must be mentioned in...

. He and many of his colleagues worked in battlefield hospitals at the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 in France. In 1918 he returned to St Mary's Hospital, where he was elected Professor of Bacteriology of the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 in 1928.

Work before penicillin


Following World War I, Fleming actively searched for anti-bacterial agents, having witnessed the death of many soldiers from sepsis
Sepsis
Sepsis is a potentially deadly medical condition that is characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state and the presence of a known or suspected infection. The body may develop this inflammatory response by the immune system to microbes in the blood, urine, lungs, skin, or other tissues...

 resulting from infected wounds. Antiseptics killed the patients' immunological defences more effectively than they killed the invading bacteria. In an article he submitted for the medical journal The Lancet
The Lancet
The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world's best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals...

during World War I, Fleming described an ingenious experiment, which he was able to conduct as a result of his own glass blowing skills, in which he explained why antiseptics were killing more soldiers than infection itself during World War I. Antiseptics worked well on the surface, but deep wounds tended to shelter anaerobic bacteria from the antiseptic agent, and antiseptics seemed to remove beneficial agents produced that protected the patients in these cases at least as well as they removed bacteria, and did nothing to remove the bacteria that were out of reach. Sir Almroth Wright
Almroth Wright
Sir Almroth Edward Wright, KBE, CB was a British bacteriologist and immunologist.He is notable for developing a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation, recognizing early on that antibiotics would create resistant bacteria and being a strong advocate for preventive medicine.-Biography:Wright was...

 strongly supported Fleming's findings, but despite this, most army physicians over the course of the war continued to use antiseptics even in cases where this worsened the condition of the patients.

Accidental discovery




"When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer," Fleming would later say, "But I suppose that was exactly what I did."

By 1927, Fleming was investigating the properties of staphylococci
Staphylococcus
Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope they appear round , and form in grape-like clusters....

. He was already well-known from his earlier work, and had developed 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 holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci 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 staphylococci that had immediately surrounded it had been destroyed, whereas other colonies farther away were normal. Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Price, who reminded him, "That's how you discovered lysozyme
Lysozyme
Lysozyme, also known as muramidase or N-acetylmuramide glycanhydrolase, are glycoside hydrolases, enzymes that damage bacterial cell walls by catalyzing hydrolysis of 1,4-beta-linkages between N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine residues in a peptidoglycan and between...

."
Fleming grew the mould in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mould as being from the Penicillium
Penicillium
Penicillium is a genus of ascomycetous fungi of major importance in the natural environment as well as food and drug production. Members of the genus produce penicillin, a molecule that is used as an antibiotic, which kills or stops the growth of certain kinds of bacteria inside the body...

genus, and, after some months of calling it "mould juice" named the substance it released penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

on 7 March 1929.

He investigated its positive anti-bacterial effect on many organisms, and noticed that it affected bacteria such as staphylococci and many other Gram-positive
Gram-positive
Gram-positive bacteria are those that are stained dark blue or violet by Gram staining. This is in contrast to Gram-negative bacteria, which cannot retain the crystal violet stain, instead taking up the counterstain and appearing red or pink...

 pathogens that cause scarlet fever
Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by exotoxin released by Streptococcus pyogenes. Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics...

, pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

, meningitis
Meningitis
Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs...

 and diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

, but not typhoid fever
Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever, also known as Typhoid, is a common worldwide bacterial disease, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella enterica, serovar Typhi...

 or paratyphoid fever
Paratyphoid fever
Paratyphoid fevers or Enteric fevers are a group of enteric illnesses caused by serotypic strains of the Salmonella genus of bacteria, S. Paratyphi....

, which are caused by Gram-negative
Gram-negative
Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria that do not retain crystal violet dye in the Gram staining protocol. In a Gram stain test, a counterstain is added after the crystal violet, coloring all Gram-negative bacteria with a red or pink color...

 bacteria, for which he was seeking a cure at the time. It also affected Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as gonococci , or gonococcus , is a species of Gram-negative coffee bean-shaped diplococci bacteria responsible for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea.N...

,
which causes gonorrhoea although this bacterium is Gram-negative.

Fleming published his discovery in 1929, in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, but little attention was paid to his article. Fleming continued his investigations, but found that cultivating penicillium was quite difficult, and that after having grown the mould, it was even more difficult to isolate the antibiotic agent. Fleming's impression was that because of the problem of producing it in quantity, and because its action appeared to be rather slow, penicillin would not be important in treating infection. Fleming also became convinced that penicillin would not last long enough in the human body (in vivo) to kill bacteria effectively. Many clinical tests were inconclusive, probably because it had been used as a surface antiseptic. In the 1930s, Fleming’s trials occasionally showed more promise, and he continued, until 1940, to try to interest a chemist skilled enough to further refine usable penicillin.

Fleming finally abandoned penicillin, and not long after he did, Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain
Ernst Boris Chain
Sir Ernst Boris Chain was a German-born British biochemist, and a 1945 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on penicillin.-Biography:...

 at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford took up researching and mass-producing it, with funds from the U.S. and British governments. They started mass production after the bombing of Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

. When D-Day arrived, they had made enough penicillin to treat all the wounded Allied forces.

Purification and stabilisation


Ernst Boris Chain
Ernst Boris Chain
Sir Ernst Boris Chain was a German-born British biochemist, and a 1945 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on penicillin.-Biography:...

 and Edward Abraham
Edward Abraham
Edward Penley Abraham, CBE, FRS was an English biochemist instrumental in the development of penicillin.-Life:...

 worked out how to isolate and concentrate penicillin. Abraham was the first to propose the correct structure of penicillin. Shortly after the team published its first results in 1940, Fleming telephoned Howard Florey, Chain's head of department, to say that he would be visiting within the next few days. When Chain heard that he was coming, he remarked, "Good God! I thought he was dead."

Norman Heatley
Norman Heatley
Norman George Heatley was a member of the team of Oxford University scientists who developed penicillin.He was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, and as a boy was an enthusiastic sailor of a small boat on the River Deben; an experience which gave him a lifelong love of sailing...

 suggested transferring the active ingredient of penicillin back into water by changing its acidity. This produced enough of the drug to begin testing on animals. There were many more people involved in the Oxford team, and at one point the entire Dunn School was involved in its production.

After the team had developed a method of purifying penicillin to an effective first stable form in 1940, several clinical trials ensued, and their amazing success inspired the team to develop methods for mass production and mass distribution in 1945.

Fleming was modest about his part in the development of penicillin, describing his fame as the "Fleming Myth" and he praised Florey and Chain for transforming the laboratory curiosity into a practical drug. Fleming was the first to discover the properties of the active substance, giving him the privilege of naming it: penicillin. He also kept, grew and distributed the original mould for twelve years, and continued until 1940 to try to get help from any chemist who had enough skill to make penicillin. But Sir Henry Harris said in 1998: "Without Fleming, no Chain; without Chain, no Florey; without Florey, no Heatley; without Heatley, no penicillin."

Antibiotics



Fleming's accidental discovery and isolation of penicillin in September 1928 marks the start of modern antibiotics. Before that, several scientists had published or pointed out that mould or penicillium sp. were able to inhibate bacterial growth, and even to cure bacterial infections in animal (Ernest Duchesne
Ernest Duchesne
Ernest Duchesne was a French physician who noted that certain moulds kill bacteria. He made this discovery 32 years before Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillin, a substance derived from those moulds, but his research went unnoticed.-Life and work:Duchesne...

 in 1897 in his thesis "Contribution to the study of vital competition in micro-organisms: antagonism between moulds and microbes", or also Clodomiro Picado Twight
Clodomiro Picado Twight
Clodomiro Picado Twight , also known as "Clorito Picado", was a Nicaraguan-born scientist, citizen of Costa Rica, who was recognized for his research and discoveries. He was pioneer in the researching snakes and serpent venoms; his internationally recognized achievement was the development of...

 whose work at Institut Pasteur in 1923 on the inhibiting action of fungi of the "Penicillin sp" genre in the growth of staphylococci drew little interest from the direction of the Institut at the time). Fleming was the first to push these studies further by isolating the penicillin, and by being motivated enough to promote his discovery at a larger scale. Fleming also discovered very early that bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 developed antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance is a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic. While a spontaneous or induced genetic mutation in bacteria may confer resistance to antimicrobial drugs, genes that confer resistance can be transferred between bacteria in a...

 whenever too little penicillin was used or when it was used for too short a period. Almroth Wright
Almroth Wright
Sir Almroth Edward Wright, KBE, CB was a British bacteriologist and immunologist.He is notable for developing a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation, recognizing early on that antibiotics would create resistant bacteria and being a strong advocate for preventive medicine.-Biography:Wright was...

 had predicted antibiotic resistance even before it was noticed during experiments. Fleming cautioned about the use of penicillin in his many speeches around the world. He cautioned not to use penicillin unless there was a properly diagnosed reason for it to be used, and that if it were used, never to use too little, or for too short a period, since these are the circumstances under which bacterial resistance to antibiotics develops.

Personal life


The popular story of Winston Churchill's father
Lord Randolph Churchill
Lord Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill MP was a British statesman. He was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and his wife Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane , daughter of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry...

 paying for Fleming's education after Fleming's father saved young Winston
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 from death is false. According to the biography, Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution by Kevin Brown, Alexander Fleming, in a letter to his friend and colleague Andre Gratia, described this as "A wondrous fable." Nor did he save Winston Churchill himself during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Churchill was saved by Lord Moran, using sulphonamide
Sulfonamide (medicine)
Sulfonamide or sulphonamide is the basis of several groups of drugs. The original antibacterial sulfonamides are synthetic antimicrobial agents that contain the sulfonamide group. Some sulfonamides are also devoid of antibacterial activity, e.g., the anticonvulsant sultiame...

s, since he had no experience with penicillin, when Churchill fell ill in Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 in Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 in 1943. The Daily Telegraph and the Morning Post
Morning Post
The Morning Post, as the paper was named on its masthead, was a conservative daily newspaper published in London from 1772 to 1937, when it was acquired by The Daily Telegraph.- History :...

on 21 December 1943 wrote that he had been saved by penicillin. He was saved by the new sulphonamide drug, Sulphapyridine
Sulfapyridine
Sulfapyridine, original UK spelling Sulphapyridine, is a sulfonamide antibacterial. At one time it was commonly referred to as M&B....

, known at the time under the research code M&B 693, discovered and produced by May & Baker Ltd
May & Baker
May & Baker was a British chemical company.It was started by Mr. May and Mr. Baker in Wandsworth, London in 1851. They initially specialized in the manufacture of chemicals derived from Mercury and Bismuth...

, Dagenham
Dagenham
Dagenham is a large suburb in East London, forming the eastern part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and located east of Charing Cross. It was historically an agrarian village in the county of Essex and remained mostly undeveloped until 1921 when the London County Council began...

, Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 – a subsidiary of the French group Rhône-Poulenc
Rhône-Poulenc
-History of the company:The Company was founded in 1928 through the merger of Société des Usines Chimiques du Rhône from Lyon and Établissements Poulenc Frères from Paris founded by Étienne Poulenc, a 19th century Parisian apothecary and brought to prominence by his second and third sons Emile...

. In a subsequent radio broadcast, Churchill referred to the new drug as "This admirable M&B." It is highly probable that the correct information about the sulphonamide did not reach the newspapers because, since the original sulphonamide antibacterial, Prontosil
Prontosil
Prontosil, the first commercially available antibacterial antibiotic , was developed by a research team at the Bayer Laboratories of the IG Farben conglomerate in Germany...

, had been a discovery by the German laboratory Bayer and Britain was at war with Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 at the time, it was thought better to raise British morale by associating Churchill's cure with the British discovery, penicillin.

Fleming's first wife, Sarah, died in 1949. Their only child, Robert Fleming, became a general medical practitioner
General practitioner
A general practitioner is a medical practitioner who treats acute and chronic illnesses and provides preventive care and health education for all ages and both sexes. They have particular skills in treating people with multiple health issues and comorbidities...

. After Sarah's death, Fleming married Dr. Amalia Koutsouri-Vourekas
Amalia Fleming
Amalia Koutsouri-Vourekas, Lady Fleming was a Greek doctor, activist and politician.Fleming was born in Constantinople in 1909. She moved to Greece and, during the Axis occupation, took part in the National Resistance, for which she was jailed by the Italians.In 1946, she received a scholarship...

, a Greek colleague at St. Mary's, on 9 April 1953; she died in 1986.

Death


In 1955, Fleming died at his home in London of a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

. He was buried at St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

.

Honours, awards and achievements



His discovery of penicillin had changed the world of modern medicine by introducing the age of useful antibiotic
Antibiotic
An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

s; penicillin has saved, and is still saving, millions of people around the world.

The laboratory at St Mary's Hospital where Fleming discovered penicillin is home to the Fleming Museum
Fleming Museum
The Fleming Museum may refer to:* Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont*Fleming Museum at St Mary's Hospital, London...

, a popular London attraction. His alma mater, St Mary's Hospital Medical School
St Mary's Hospital Medical School
St Mary's is the youngest of the constituent schools of Imperial College, London, founded in 1854 as part of the new hospital in Paddington. During its existence in the 1980s and 90s, it was the most popular medical school in the country, with an application to place ratio of 27:1 in 1996.St Mary's...

, merged with Imperial College London
Imperial College London
Imperial College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, specialising in science, engineering, business and medicine...

 in 1988. The Sir Alexander Fleming Building on the South Kensington
South Kensington
South Kensington is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. It is a built-up area located 2.4 miles west south-west of Charing Cross....

 campus was opened in 1998 and is now one of the main preclinical teaching sites of the Imperial College School of Medicine
Imperial College School of Medicine
The Imperial College School of Medicine is the medical school of Imperial College London in England, and one of the United Hospitals....

.

His other alma mater, the Royal Polytechnic Institution (now the University of Westminster
University of Westminster
The University of Westminster is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom. Its origins go back to the foundation of the Royal Polytechnic Institution in 1838, and it was awarded university status in 1992.The university's headquarters and original campus are based on Regent...

) has named one of its student halls of residence Alexander Fleming House, which is near to Old Street
Old Street
Old Street is a street in east London that runs west to east from Goswell Road in Clerkenwell, in the London Borough of Islington, to the crossroads where it intersects with Shoreditch High Street , Kingsland Road and Hackney Road in Shoreditch in the London Borough of Hackney.The nearest...

.
  • Fleming, Florey and Chain jointly received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945. According to the rules of the Nobel committee a maximum of three people may share the prize. Fleming's Nobel Prize medal was acquired by the National Museums of Scotland
    National Museums of Scotland
    National Museums Scotland is the organization that runs several national museums of Scotland. It is one of the country's National Collections, and holds internationally important collections of natural sciences, decorative arts, world cultures, science and technology, and Scottish history and...

     in 1989, and will be on display when the Royal Museum re-opens in 2011.
  • Fleming was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
    Pontifical Academy of Sciences
    The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is a scientific academy of the Vatican, founded in 1936 by Pope Pius XI. It is placed under the protection of the reigning Supreme Pontiff. Its aim is to promote the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences and the study of related...

    .
  • Fleming was awarded the Hunterian Professorship by the Royal College of Surgeons of England
  • Fleming and Florey were knighted, as Knights Bachelor, in 1944; twenty-one years later, in 1965, Florey was elevated to the life peerage as Baron Florey of Adelaide in the State of South Australia and Commonwealth of Australia and of Marston in the County of Oxford.
  • When 2000 was approaching, at least three large Swedish magazines ranked penicillin as the most important discovery of the millennium. Some of these magazines estimated that about 200 million lives have been saved by this discovery.
  • A statue of Alexander Fleming stands outside the main bullring in Madrid
    Madrid
    Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

    , Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
    Las Ventas
    The Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is a famous bullring in Madrid .Situated in the Guindalera quarter of the district of Salamanca, it was inaugurated on June 17, 1931. It has a seating capacity of 25,000 and is regarded as the home of bullfighting in Spain.This bullring was designed by the architect...

    . It was erected by subscription from grateful matador
    Matador
    A torero or toureiro is a bullfighter and the main performer in bullfighting, practised in Spain, Colombia, Portugal, Mexico, France and various other countries influenced by Spanish culture. In Spanish, the word torero describes any of the performers who actively participate in the bullfight...

    s, as penicillin greatly reduced the number of deaths in the bullring.
  • Flemingovo náměstí is a square named after Fleming in the university area of the Dejvice
    Dejvice
    Dejvice is a historical community, a municipal quarter of the Prague 6 district of Prague, Czech Republic. Its history can be traced back to the late Roman era. Dejvice is known for its appeal to the upper middle class, and as a university district...

     community in Prague
    Prague
    Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

    .
  • In mid-2009, Fleming was commemorated on a new series of banknotes issued by the Clydesdale Bank
    Clydesdale Bank
    Clydesdale Bank is a commercial bank in Scotland, a subsidiary of the National Australia Bank Group. In Scotland, Clydesdale Bank is the third largest clearing bank, although it also retains a branch network in London and the north of England...

    ; his image appears on the new issue of £5 notes.
  • 91006 Fleming
    91006 Fleming
    91006 Fleming is a main-belt minor planet. It was discovered by Miloš Tichý and Zdeněk Moravec at the Kleť Observatory near České Budějovice, Czech Republic, on January 28, 1998. It is named Alexander Fleming, a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist of the 19th and 20th centuries.-External links:...

    , an asteroid in the Asteroid Belt, is named for Fleming.

External links