Alexander Fleming 2

Topics: Alexander Fleming, Penicillin, Nobel Prize Pages: 5 (1767 words) Published: December 4, 2012
Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist. Fleming published many articles on bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy. His best-known achievements are the discovery of the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the antibiotic substance penicillin from the fungus Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Walter Florey and Ernst Boris Chain. Alexander Fleming was born August 6, 1881 at Lochfield, a farm near Darvel in East Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the third of four children to Hugh Fleming and Grace Stirling Morton. Fleming attended Louden Moor, and Darvel School, where he earned a two year scholarship to Kilmarnock Academy before moving to London where he attended the Royal Polytehnic Institution. After working in a shipping office for four years, twenty-year-old Fleming inherited some money from his uncle John Fleming. His older brother, Tom, was already a physician and suggested to Alexander that he should follow the same career. In 1901, Fleming enrolled at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London. He qualified for the school with distinction in 1906 and had the option of becoming a surgeon. By chance however, he had been a member of the Rifle Club, and the captain of the club wishing to retain Fleming in the team suggested that he joined the research department at St. Mary’s, where he became assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright. He gained M.B. and then B.Sc. with Gold Medal in 1908 and became a lecturer at St. Mary’s until 1914. On December 23, 1915, Alexander married a trained nurse, Sarah Marion McElroy of Killala, Ireland. Alexander served throughout World War I as a captain in the Army Medical Corps, and was mentioned in dispatches. He and many of his colleagues worked in the battlefields hospitals at the Western Front in France. In 1918, he returned to St. Mary’s Hospital, which was a teaching hospital. He was elected Professor of Bacteriology in 1928. After the war Fleming actively searched for anti-bacterial agents, having witnessed the death of many soldiers from septicemia resulting from infected wounds. Antiseptics killed the patients' immunological defenses more effectively than they killed the invading bacteria. In an article he submitted for the medical journal The Lancet 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 strongly supported Fleming's findings, but despite this, most army physicians over the course of WWI continued to use antiseptics even in cases where this worsened the condition of the patients. "When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer," Fleming would later say, "But I guess that was exactly what I did". By 1928, Fleming was investigating the properties of staphylococci. 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 further away...
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