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Alexander Fleming

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Alexander Fleming
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Alexander Fleming

Sir Alexander Fleming (August 6, 1881March 11, 1955) discovered the antibiotic substance lysozyme and isolated the antibiotic substance penicillin from the fungus Penicillium notatum.

Biography

Fleming was born on a farm at Lochfield in Ayrshire, Scotland and was schooled for two years at the Academy in Kilmarnock. He later attended St Mary's Hospital medical school in London until World War I broke out. He participated in a battlefield hospital with many of his colleagues in the fronts of France. Being exposed to the horrific medical infections by the dying soldiers, he returned to St. Mary's after the war with renewed energy in searching for an improved antiseptic.

Both of Fleming's discoveries happened entirely by accident during the 1920s. The first, lysozyme, was discovered after Fleming sneezed into a bacterium-laced Petri dish. A few days later, it was noted that bacteria where the mucus had fallen had been destroyed.

Fleming's labs were usually in disarray, which turned out to be to his advantage. In September 1928, he was sorting through the many idle experiments strewn about his lab. He inspected each specimen before discarding it and noticed an interesting fungal colony had grown as a contaminant on one of the agar plates streaked with the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. Fleming inspected the Petri dish further and found that the bacterial colonies around the fungus were transparent because their cells were lysing. Lysis is the breakdown of cells, and in this case, potentially harmful bacteria. The importance was immediately recognized, however the discovery was still underestimated. Fleming issued a publication about penicillin in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1929.

Fleming worked with the mould for some time, but refining and growing it was a difficult process better suited to chemists. Fleming's impression was that, because of the problem of producing the drug in quantity and because its action seemed slow, it would not be an important resource for treating infection. Furthermore, his initial paper was not well received in the medical community. Fleming therefore did not pursue the subject further. It was left to two other scientists, Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain, to develop a method of purifying penicillin to an effective form. Through their work, the drug was available for mass distribution during World War II.

For his achievements, Fleming was knighted in 1944. Fleming, Florey, and Chain were the joint recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945. Florey was later given the higher honour of a peerage for his monumental work in making penicillin available to the public and saving millions of lives in World War II.

Fleming was long a member of the Chelsea Arts Club, a private club for artists of all genres, founded in 1891 at the suggestion of the painter James McNeil Whistler. Fleming was admitted to the club after he made "germ paintings," in which he drew with a culture loop using spores of highly pigmented bacteria. The bacteria were invisible while he painted, but when cultured made bright colours.

Serratia marcescens - red
Chromobacterium violaceum - purple
Micrococcus luteus - yellow
Micrococcus varians - white
Micrococcus roseus - pink
Bacillus sp. - orange

Fleming died in 1955 of a heart attack. He was buried as a national hero in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His discovery of penicillin had changed the world of modern medicines by introducing the age of useful antibiotics.

External links

de:Alexander Fleming es:Alexander Fleming eo:Alexander FLEMING fr:Alexander Fleming it:Alexander Fleming ja:アレクサンダー・フレミング ka:ფლემინგი, ალექსანდერ nl:Alexander Fleming no:Alexander Fleming pl:Alexander Fleming ro:Alexander Fleming fi:Alexander Fleming sv:Alexander Fleming zh:亚历山大·弗莱明

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