Sir Alexander Fleming is “The Penicillin Man”
"When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer," Fleming would later say, "But I suppose that was exactly what I did". And we should thank him every time when we get sick and take the penicillin as single remedy for our disease. Because of his research and his discovery of penicillin, he has "the greatest contribution medical science ever made to humanity."
On a farm in Scotland on August 6, 1881, at Lochfield, Ayrshire, this amazing person was born, and this person is none other than Alexander Fleming. As a boy he roamed the countryside with his 8 brothers who lived with him in a desolate area of Scotland. The Fleming children had an amazing love for the flora, fauna and merry weather that surrounded their farm for miles. "We unconsciously learned a great deal from nature," said Fleming at a later time in his life. Nature, which he considered his first and best teacher, developed his power of observation and taught him to apply his powers of reasoning to what he observed and to act in accordance with his observations. Like many Scots who were forced to leave their native land for better career opportunities, Fleming, at the age of 13, left for London, where he lived with his brothers. He attended lectures at the Polytechnic School and worked for 4 years in a shipping office. In 1901 an uncle left Fleming a legacy that enabled him to study medicine, and he entered St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in Paddington, later a part of the University of London. In 1906 Fleming received his licentiate from the Royal College of Physicians. He chose a career in bacteriology and immediately joined the Inoculation Department, now the Wright-Fleming Institute, where he spent his entire career. He assisted Sir Almroth Wright, the originator of vaccinotherapy and the first doctor to use antityphoid vaccines on human beings. Fleming's research at this time primarily involved the use of Paul Ehrlich's Salvarsan in the treatment of syphilis. In 1908 Fleming passed his final medical examinations, winning the Gold Medal of the University of London. He was awarded the Cheadle Medal for his thesis "Acute Bacterial Infections," which foreshadowed the line of work he followed throughout his life. During World War I Fleming served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, specializing in the treatment of wounds by antiseptics. He noticed that phagocytosis (the ingestion and destruction of infectious microbes by the cells) was more active in war wound infections than in ordinary wound infections, and he advised surgeons to remove all necrotic tissue as soon as possible. He observed that antiseptics not only did nothing to prevent gangrene but actually promoted its development by destroying leukocytes. Although Fleming's later discoveries have overshadowed this work, some authorities believe that he never conceived anything more perfect or ingenious than these brilliant experiments by which he demonstrated the danger to human tissues of incorrectly administered antiseptics. In 1915, Fleming married Sarah Marion McElroy, an Irish nurse who operated a private nursing home in London. The couple had one son, Robert. Between 1922 and 1927 he published articles on lysozyme. But the greatest discovery was near to happen. Fleming made his most important discoveries while he was doing research in the inoculation department at St. Mary's. He proved that an enzyme found in body liquids (tears) called lysozyme had a natural antibacterial effect. The leitmotiv of Fleming's career was his search for a chemical substance which would destroy infectious bacteria. On September 28, 1928, Fleming didn’t know he will revolutionise the medicine, but that was exactly what he did. When he came back from a long holiday and he had found some culture trays in his lab that were...
Bibliography: 1. Andre Maurois, "The Life of Sir Alexander Fleming" - Penguin Books, 1963
2. Salvatore Tocci, "Alexander Fleming: The Man Who Discovered Penicillin" - Enslow Publishers, 2002
3. Lloyd G. Stevenson, "Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine and Physiology 1901-1950" - Henry Schuman New York, 1953
4. John Rowland, "The Penicillin Man: The Story of Alexander Fleming" - New York: Roy Press. 1957
5. Thomson Gale, "Encyclopedia of World Biography"
6. Thomson Gale, "World of Scientific Discovery"
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