Biography Of Alexander Fleming -

Biography Of Alexander Fleming

Biography Of Alexander Fleming


Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 1881 – 11 March 1954) was born in the county of East Ayrshire in Scotland around 1881. Biologist as well as pharmacist best known because of his work on the discovery and development of the antibiotic penicillin, which was discovered in 1928. He was awarded the Nobel Prize, jointly with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain for medicine in 1945.

After four years working for a shipping company and a gift from a relative allowed Fleming to study as a doctor at St Mary’s Hospital London. Then he joined the Department of Research, specializing in the relatively recent field of bacteriology.

During the First World War, Fleming served in the medical service and was a part of the hospitals on the Western Front; during his military service, his name was mentioned in the dispatches.

The most significant breakthrough of Fleming’s career occurred in 1928 when completely through chance, he came across an effective antibacterial drug

“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,” … “But I guess that was exactly what I did”.

– Alexander Fleming

Fleming was left with a jar of mould amid his August holiday. After returning to work, the employee noticed that a container of Staphylococcus bacteria that was a green-yellow mould was covered in the dish, with only one area that was clean of the bacteria, more like the effect of a halo.

“One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.”

– Alexander Fleming

It was Fleming’s greatest Eureka moment – the time the scientist correctly concluded that an antibacterial agent had slipped into the system and stopped the bacterial growth. He later identified the antibacterial agent as a unique type that is a rare form of penicillium, that was discovered at a mycology laboratory nearby. The researcher later spoke about the significance of chance in the discovery.

“I tried to emphasize how in the course of our daily lives, change can have a profound impact on our lives. And, if I were to provide advice to a young lab worker I would say: Never overlook an unexpected event or appearance. It might be a false alarm that is not a cause for concern however, it could, however, be a clue from destiny to guide you to the next step in your career.”

– Alexander Fleming (Lecture at Harvard University. Quoted in Joseph Sambrook, David W. Russell, Molecular Cloning (2001), Vol. 1, 153)

In 1929 He published his findings in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology. But for the following decade, his work remained somewhat unnoticed. He was not able to make penicillin for injection into rats in sufficient amounts. In 1932, he abandoned his studies about penicillin.

“It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject: the details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought, and perception of an individual.”

– Alexander Fleming.

Biography Of Alexander Fleming


Biography Of Alexander Fleming


In 1939, a group of scientists from Oxford University began work on creating a massive quantity of antibacterial drugs. The group led by Howard Florey and Dr Ernst Chain began to experiment with the penicillin culture of Dr Fleming. They were able to extract penicillin in sufficient quantities that they could begin making it commercially scale. This enabled them to begin creating the first antibiotics ever made in the world. It revolutionized medical science and allowed to end of a myriad of bacterial illnesses like syphilis, pneumonia as well as diphtheria, gonorrhoea scarlet fever, as well as many other infant birth illnesses.

After penicillin was discovered The public was looking for someone to be the primary person associated with the process of discovery. Florey and Chain were not so keen on being featured in the media, therefore the importance in the life of Alexander Fleming was highlighted as the first person to discover the antibiotic. Fleming was described as the heroine of the antibiotic generation which was a breakthrough that saved millions of people during the Second World War and after.

For his efforts in his work, he was given the Nobel Prize in 1945.

He passed away due to an attack on his heart in 1955. He was buried in Westminster Cathedral.


Quotes by Alexander Fleming


Fleming On Cultures of Penicillium

“While performing work with staphylococcus variants, a variety of plates for culture were placed on the bench in the lab and inspected from time to time. During the tests, these plates were exposed to air and became infected with different microorganisms. It was observed that in the vicinity of the size of a contamination mould, the staphylococcus colonies became translucent and went through the process of lysis. Subcultures of the mould were created and tests were carried out to discover the characteristics of the bacteriolytic substances that were clearly created in the mould and then dispersed into the medium surrounding it. It was observed that the broth that the mould was in after it had been developed at temperatures at room temperature for either one or two weeks, had developed marked inhibiting, bacteriocidal and the ability to eat the most common pathogenic bacteria.”

Sir Alexander Fleming – ‘On the antibacterial action of the cultures of a Penicillium, With particular reference to their use in the isolation of B. Influenzae’, British Journal of Experimental Pathology 1929. 10, 226.


Facts About Alexander Fleming


  1. Alexander is enrolled in St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington in 1903
  2. Fleming worked on staphylococci bacteria, the kind that can cause sore throats and boils when he came across penicillium Nonantum
  3. It was only in the Second World War that fellow researchers Florey and Chain were capable of extracting penicillin in sufficient quantities to make it a treatment.
  4. Penicillin is believed to save thousands of Allied soldiers during World War Two.
  5. The year 1945 was the year that Fleming as well as Florey Chain received the Nobel Prize for medicine.
  6. At least three major Swedish magazines have rated penicillin as the top breakthrough of the new millennium.

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