At the beginning of the 20th century, a small, single cut that got infected could kill you. This was the case in World War I, as soldier’s wounds would become infected and that would be the cause of their death rather than the wound itself. All of that changed, with the invention of penicillin!
In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming came back from his 2-week vacation to find that mould spores had grown in the Petri-dishes in his lab. This mould was killing the bacteria that he had grown in his lab. He grew more of the mould because he was curious to see if it would kill other types of bacteria as well, and he was right: apparently, this
mould could kill various types of bacteria! By accident, Sir Alexander Fleming had discovered the first antibiotic, which he identified to be Penicillium.
In World War I, Sir Alexander Fleming served as captain of the Army Medical Corps and witnessed many deaths due to infection. The second World War was different as in 1940, two other scientists, Howard Florey, and Ernst Chain, became interested in Penicillin. They were able to mass produce an injectable form of the antibiotic by 1942 saving an estimated 100,000 lives! Florey, Chain along with Sir Fleming were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945 for their work.
Sir Alexander Fleming has previously said, “I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident.” Today, Penicillin is used to treat all sorts of infections that could have escalated to become something much worse. Sir Fleming came up with quite the lifesaving accident!
- Jenna Dhanani