Alexander Fleming
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Sir Alexander Fleming 1881- 1955

 



Alexander Fleming was born near Darvel in Ayrshire. After an education in both Darvel and nearby Kilmarnock, he moved to London. There he spent four years in a shipping office before entering St. Mary's Medical School, London University where he qualified with distinction. He began research in 1906 at St. Mary's under Sir Almroth Wright who was a pioneer in vaccine therapy. he became a lecturer there until 1914 when WW1 broke out - he served as a captain in the Medical Corps where he was mentioned in dispatches. Being exposed to the horrific medical infections of the dying soldiers on the battlefield he returned to St. Mary's with a renewed energy in searching for an improved antiseptic.

While at St. Mary’s his most important discovery was proving that an enzyme found in tears called lysozyme had a natural antibacterial effect. During further research, Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin which was a common mould found growing on stale bread. Although that wasn't surprising, what it was doing was! The staph bacteria in the contaminated dishes had been killed around this mould he called penicillin.


Fleming is said to have tested his new creation on animals without harming them as he was an animal lover. His discovery in 1929 was publicised in magazines, but little interest was shown until World War II when it saved many lives. Penicillin is still used today to treat all kinds of bacterial infections throughout the world.
Fleming received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945, which he shared with Australian born Howard Florey and Ernst Chain who finished Fleming's work. Fleming was knighted in 1944 and died on March 11th in 1955 and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral London.


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