Who Was Alexander Fleming And What Did He Do

We always hear about Alexander Fleming and his discovery of the penicillin and barely know much about him.

Sir Alexander Fleming was born on August 6, 1881 in Ayrshire, Scotland.

He’s a bacteriologist who worked in a wide range of studies from wound infection to lysozyme.

In 1928, he discovered the penicillin which paved the way for the antibiotic revolution and eventually marked his place in the history of bacteriology.

In 1945, his work was awarded and recognized. He received the Nobel Prize for Medicine alongside Howard Florey, a Australian pathologist and Ernst Chain, a British biochemist.

Early Education And Career

Alexander Fleming was the 7th child of a farmer in Scotland.

With his upbringing, at such an early age his eyes were opened to the beauty of the natural world.

He started his school at Loudoon Moor and eventually he moved to Kilmarnock Academy.

One year after, he went to London where he lived his older brother Thomas who was an oculist.

In 1901, he went to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School where he was able to secure a scholarship.

At the University of London, he became a top student and got a gold medal.

When he worked at the Inoculation Department, he was finally convinced that his future was with the bacteriology.

From 1909 to 194, he successfully established his career as a venereologist and got married to Sarah McElroy who was working as a nurse.

Fleming was considered to be one of the very first doctors in Britan to have the Salvarsan administered. It’s a drug that’s used to treat syphilis.

When World War I broke out, he for the Royal Army Medical Corps as a bacteriologist.

He then started studying about wound infections. In his work, he showed how the use of antiseptics did harm.

He recommended that it’s better to ensure to make it clean and just to use a saline solution that is mild.

Alexander Fleming came back to St. Mary and became the assistant director of the department.

Work Prior To The Discovery Of Penicillin

Fleming saw the death of soldiers due to infected wounds during WW1.

What he found out was that the antiseptics used actually made things much worst.

He submitted an article in the Lancet, a medical journal where he showed in his work how the antiseptics were actually killing the soldiers more compared to the infections.

At the onset and from the surface, most would think that these antiseptics really worked but the wounds would have anaerobic bacteria coming from the antiseptic.

Another colleague supported his findings. Almroth Wright supported Fleming’s claims despite other physicians who continued to use these antiseptics.

When he came back at St. Mary’s Hospital, he continued his work and investigations.

He tested secretions that came from a patient who had a cold and from there he tested to see its effect on the growth of the bacteria. His first discovery that he recorded was the lysozome.

Discovery Of Penicillin

After he was appointed as professor in September 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered that substance he was working on was now contaminated by fungus. He identified it as Penicillium notatum.

Due to his inquisitive nature, he studied it further as he was able to find a more potent enzyme compared to lysosome.

Working with two researchers, they started to find ways to purify the penicillin.

Although they initially failed, he pointed out that there’s clinical potential in penicillin. As an antiseptic and antibiotic, it’s known to have potential.

During World War II, penicillin was used. With the work of a group of scientists from the University of Oxford, they were able to develop penicillin.

In 1945 Fleming alongside Ernst Chain and Howard Florey won the 1945 Nobel Prize.

In 1944, Fleming was awarded the knight status. Five years after, his wife died.

And just two years after, he remarried his colleague.

For the last years of his life, Fleming devoted himself in various studies and became the ambassador of medicine.

Fleming might be initially known as a shy man who’s not really very communicative but he became one of the world’s most famous scientists.