Autobiography
Scientists
Alexander Fleming

Who was Alexander Fleming?

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April 25, 2011 10:14PM

Alexander Fleming was a scientist, born near Darvel in Ayrshire, Scotland, on 6 August 1881. He was educated at St Mary's Hospital medical school in London until World War I. Whilst here, he gained a great deal of experience in a battlefield hospital in France. He observed firsthand the effects of infections in dying soldiers, and this motivated him to increase his efforts to find an effective means of fighting infection.

Fleming is known for his discovery of the antibiotic substance penicillin from the fungus Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945. What is more remarkable was how this discovery came about quite by accident.

Fleming was an untidy worker, often leaving his equipment uncleaned. When he went away for a holiday during 1828, he left a clutter of plates growing various bacteria lying about his desk. After he returned, whilst working on an influenza virus he noticed that mould had grown on a staphylococcus culture plate. Not only that, the mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. Working on an hypothesis, he experimented further to determine that even a weaker-strength mould culture prevented growth of staphylococci. Thus, Fleming initiated the development and practice of antibiotic therapy for infectious diseases.