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  1. Alexander Fleming (1881–1955): Discoverer of penicillin › pmc › articles

    In an article he wrote during this time, Fleming discussed the presence of anaerobic bacteria in deep wounds, which proliferated despite antiseptics. Initially, his research was not accepted, but Fleming continued undaunted and in 1922, he discovered lysozyme, an enzyme with weak antibacterial properties.

    • Siang Yong Tan, Yvonne Tatsumura
    • 117
    • 2015
  2. Alexander Fleming | Science History Institute › alexander-fleming
    • The Road to St. Mary’s
    • Approaches to Fighting Infectious Disease
    • Penicillin Discovered—By Accident

    Born in Lochfield, Ayrshire, Scotland, Fleming was the seventh of eight surviving children in a farm family. His father died when he was seven years old, leaving his mother to manage the farm with her eldest stepson. Fleming, having acquired a good basic education in local schools, followed a stepbrother, already a practicing physician, to London when he was 13. He spent his teenaged years attending classes at Regent Street Polytechnic, working as a shipping clerk, and serving briefly in the army during the Boer War (1899–1902), although he did not see combat. Then in 1901 he won a scholarship to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington, London, which remained his professional home for the rest of his life.

    Fleming accepted a post as a medical bacteriologist at St. Mary’s after completing his studies, and in 1906 he joined the staff of the Inoculation Department under the direction of Sir Almroth Wright. Wright strongly believed in strengthening the body’s own immune system through vaccine therapy, not by chemotherapy—the introduction of external chemical agents (see Paul Ehrlich). Nonetheless, he turned over to Fleming samples of a new drug, Salvarsan, synthesized by Paul Ehrlich and colleagues for treating syphilis. Fleming’s experience administering the drug to patients was positive, and thereafter he maintained a small but lucrative practice administering Salvarsan to wealthy patients suffering from syphilis. During World War I, Fleming worked at a special wound-research laboratory in Boulogne, France, headed by Wright. There he began research that produced results more in keeping with Wright’s thinking. He was able to demonstrate that then commonly used chemical antiseptics like c...

    Fleming’s legendary discovery of penicillin occurred in 1928, while he was investigating staphylococcus, a common type of bacteria that causes boils and can also cause disastrous infections in patients with weakened immune systems. Before Fleming left for a two-week vacation, a petri dish containing a staphylococcus culture was left on a lab bench and never placed in the incubator as intended. Somehow, in preparing the culture, a Penicilliummold spore had been accidentally introduced into the medium—perhaps coming in through a window, or more likely floating up a stairwell from the lab below where various molds were being cultured. The temperature conditions that prevailed during Fleming’s absence permitted both the bacteria and the mold spores to grow; had the incubator been used, only the bacteria could have grown. Fleming’s laboratory notebooks are sketchy, and his subsequent accounts of the discovery are contradictory. The evidence of the first culture, which he photographed, in...

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  4. Alexander Fleming Discovers Penicillin › alexander-fleming-discovers

    May 07, 2018 · In 1922, Fleming made an important discovery, lysozyme. While working with some bacteria, Fleming's nose leaked, dropping some mucus onto the dish. The bacteria disappeared. Fleming had discovered a natural substance found in tears and nasal mucus that helps the body fight germs.

  5. Alexander Fleming (1881–1955): Discoverer of penicillin | SMJ › article › alexander-fleming-1881-1955

    In an article he wrote during this time, Fleming discussed the presence of anaerobic bacteria in deep wounds, which proliferated despite antiseptics. Initially, his research was not accepted, but Fleming continued undaunted and in 1922, he discovered lysozyme, an enzyme with weak antibacterial properties.

    • Siang Yong Tan, Yvonne Tatsumura
    • 117
    • 2015
  6. Forgotten Water Polo History: Sir Alexander Fleming - Water ... › water-polo-history-sir

    Apr 09, 2020 · Fleming grew the mold in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mold as being from the genus Penicillium , and, after some months of calling it “mold juice”, named the substance it released “Penicillin” on March 7, 1929. [16]

  7. How Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin | Britannica › video › 186404

    One day in 1928, Fleming came back from his holidays. He found some cultures of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria which he'd meant to throw away had died. But instead of throwing them away, he stopped to think what might have caused some of his sample to die and the rest to live. After a lot of time and effort in his lab, Fleming worked out ...

    • 2 min
  8. Discoveries - Alexander Fleming - Science Hall of Fame ... › scientists › biographies

    In 1922 Fleming discovered a way of destroying bacteria. While lecturing in bacteriology, he found some interesting properties and proved the natural antiseptic value of 'lysozyme'. When tidying up his usual clutter of test tubes and mouldy culture plates, Fleming noticed something unusual. One of the plates was covered with golden-yellow ...

  9. History of penicillin - Wikipedia › wiki › Discoveries_of_anti
    • Early History
    • Early Scientific Evidence
    • The Breakthrough Discovery
    • First Medical Use
    • Isolation and Mass Production
    • Development of Penicillin-Derivatives
    • Drug Resistance
    • External Links

    Many ancient cultures, including those in Egypt, Greece and India, independently discovered the useful properties of fungi and plants in treating infection. These treatments often worked because many organisms, including many species of mould, naturally produce antibioticsubstances. However, ancient practitioners could not precisely identify or isolate the active components in these organisms. In 17th-century Poland, wet bread was mixed with spider webs (which often contained fungal spores) to treat wounds. The technique was mentioned by Henryk Sienkiewicz in his 1884 book With Fire and Sword. In England in 1640, the idea of using mold as a form of medical treatment was recorded by apothecaries such as John Parkinson, King's Herbarian, who advocated the use of mold in his book on pharmacology.

    1. In the early stages of penicillin research, most species of Penicillium were generally referred to as Penicillium glaucum, so we cannot identify the actual strains used. Thus, it is difficult to tell whether it was really penicillin preventing bacterial growth.


    Penicillin was discovered by a Scottish physician Alexander Fleming in 1928. While working at St Mary's Hospital, London, Fleming was investigating the pattern of variation in S. aureus. He was inspired by the discovery of an Irish physician Joseph Warwick Bigger and his two students C.R. Boland and R.A.Q. O’meara at the Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, in 1927. Bigger and his students found that when they cultured a particular strain of S. aureus, which they designated "Y" that they isolate...

    Initial discovery

    In August, Fleming spent a vacation with his family at his country home The Dhoon at Barton Mills, Suffolk. Before leaving his laboratory, he inoculated several culture plates with S. aureus. He kept the plates aside on one corner of the table away from direct sunlight and to make space for Craddock to work in his absence. While in a vacation, he was appointed Professor of Bacteriology at the St Mary's Hospital Medical School on 1 September 1928. He arrived at his laboratory on 3 September, w...


    Fleming went off to resume his vacation and returned for the experiments late in September.He collected the original mould and grew them in culture plates. After four days he found that the plates developed large colonies of the mould. He repeated the experiment with the same bacteria-killing results. He later recounted his experience, He concluded that the mold was releasing a substance that was inhibiting bacterial growth, he produced culture broth of the mold and subsequently concentrated...

    During the next twelve years, Fleming grew and distributed the original mould. He was unsuccessful in making a stable form of it for mass production.Although Fleming did some research with penicillin directly on patients and greatly contributed to its medical use, he did not realize its revolutionary potential because of the impurity of the penicillin that he made and the difficulty in producing it in mass. Most of his further research with penicillin was focused mostly on the properties of penicillin rather than medical treatment with the drug. Cecil George Paine, a pathologist at the Royal Infirmary in Sheffield, was the first to use penicillin for medical treatment. He initially attempted to treat sycosis (eruptions in beard follicles) with penicillin but was unsuccessful, probably because the drug did not penetrate deep enough. Moving on to ophthalmia neonatorum, a gonococcal infection in babies, he achieved the first cure on 25 November 1930, four patients (one adult, the other...

    The Oxford team were the first to isolate penicillin as "a brown powder" that "has been obtained [from Penicillium notatum culture broth] which is freely soluble in water"; and that this powder was effective in vitro and in vivo against bacteria. They published their findings in 24 August 1940 issue of The Lancet. Chain and Abraham worked out the chemical nature of penicillin in December 1940, which they reported in Natureas: As an enzyme, they gave a new name "penicillinase". The team reported details of the isolation method in 1941 with a scheme for large-scale extraction. They also found that penicillin was most abundant as yellow concentrate from the mould extract.But they were able to produce only small quantities. In 1942, Chain, Abraham and E.R. Holiday produced the pure compound. Knowing that large-scale production for medical use was futile in England, Florey and Heatley travelled to the US in 1941 to persuade pharmaceutical companies for funding mass production. Between 19...

    The narrow range of treatable diseases or "spectrum of activity" of the penicillins, along with the poor activity of the orally active phenoxymethylpenicillin, led to the search for derivatives of penicillin that could treat a wider range of infections. The isolation of 6-APA, the nucleus of penicillin, allowed for the preparation of semisynthetic penicillins, with various improvements over benzylpenicillin (bioavailability, spectrum, stability, tolerance). The first major development was ampicillin in 1961. It was produced by Beecham Research Laboratories in London. It was more advantageous than the original penicillin as it offered a broader spectrum of activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Further development yielded β-lactamase-resistant penicillins, including flucloxacillin, dicloxacillin, and methicillin. These were significant for their activity against β-lactamase-producing bacterial species, but were ineffective against the methicillin-resistant Staphyl...

    In 1940, Ernst Chain and Edward Abraham reported the first indication of antibiotic resistance to penicillin, an E. coli strain that produced the penicillinase enzyme, which was capable of breaking down penicillin and completely negating its antibacterial effect. In 1942, strains of Staphylococcus aureus had been documented to have developed a strong resistance to penicillin. Most of the strains were resistant to penicillin by the 1960s. In 1967, Streptococcus pneumoniaewas also reported to be penicillin resistant. Many strains of bacteria have developed a resistance to penicillin.

    History of Antibiotics, archived from the original on 14 May 2002, retrieved 6 August 2013, from a course offered at Princeton University
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