|Famous as||Biologist, Pharmacologist|
|Born on||06 August 1881|
|Born in||Lochfield, Scotland|
|Died on||11 March 1955|
|Works & Achievements||Discovered enzyme lysozyme and antibiotic penicillin, Won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945|
Alexander Fleming was a great Scottish biologist and pharmacologist who made way for antibiotic medicines with his discovery of penicillin from the mould “Penicillium notatum“. Fleming’s discoveries brought new hope to mankind in battling certain diseases and treating bacterial infections. Fleming’s various works are recorded in his articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. He won his Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his outstanding contributions and path breaking discoveries in medicines. Such is the impact of the great man that his name had even featured in the list of 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century as recently as in 1999. Present day penicillin upgrades carried put by the medicine world stand on one man’s quest and that is none other than Fleming. By discovering synthetic penicillin Fleming paved the way for preventing and fighting serious illnesses like syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis which were never imagined of being treated before Fleming’s discoveries.
Alexander Fleming Childhood
Alexander Fleming was born on 6 August 1881 at Lochfield, a farm located near Darvel in Ayrshire, Scotland. Fleming was third among 4 children born to father Hugh Fleming and Grace Stirling Morton. Alexander lost his father at the age of 7.
Fleming received his formal education from Loudoun Moor School and Darvel School. He worked his way in earning a scholarship for 2 years to pursue his studies at Kilmarnock Academy. Soon after completing his primary education Fleming shifted his base to London enrolling himself in the Royal Polytechnic Institution.
Fleming was recruited in a shipping office for 4 years before inheriting some money from his uncle John Fleming.
Alexander’s elder brother Tom was a physicist who suggested Alexander to take up the same career. This brotherly suggestion made Alexander enrol himself at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London in 1903 where he earned a distinction in 1906 which qualified him to become a surgeon.
Career in the Military
Alexander had been a prominent member of the rifle club. Since 1900 Alexander had actively remained a member of the Volunteer Force which was formed by citizen army group practicing part-time rifle, artillery and engineer corps. This group became very popular in the mid 19th century and many volunteer units were recruited by the British Army. The captain of the rifle club wanted Fleming to stay with the team which made Fleming join the research department at St Mary’s and later become an assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright who was a pioneer in vaccine therapy and immunology. Fleming soon gained his rightly earned positions, earning his M.B. and later a B.Sc. with Gold Medal in 1908. Fleming was appointed as a lecturer at St. Mary’s where he remained till 1914.
Fleming was called to serve at the World War I where he was a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was awarded MID (Mentioned in Dispatches). Fleming played his part all through the war. Fleming, along with many of his colleagues, served in several battlefield hospitals at the Western Front in France. It was only in 1918 that Fleming could return to St. Mary’s Hospital, which turned into a teaching hospital. Fleming was chosen as the Professor of Bacteriology in 1928.
Research Works on Penicillin
The war had a great impact on Fleming’s scientific mind. Having witnessed deaths of so many soldiers, Fleming frantically searched for anti bacterial agents in order to create medicines that could treat infections and wounds. Fleming was not keen to create antiseptics which did nothing to kill the fast increasing bacteria instead they reduced the sufferer’s immunological defences. Fleming had greatly explained the unworthy nature of antiseptics in one of his article written for the medical journal ‘The Lancet’ during World War I where he had discussed about an experiment he had conducted showing the reasons why antiseptics were killing more soldiers than infection itself during World War. Fleming showed the world that antiseptics actually did not work well in treating deep wounds but were great on surface wounds. Fleming’s serious researches on uselessness of antiseptics for deep wounds were greatly supported by Sir Almroth Wright. In spite of Fleming’s findings several physicians continued using antiseptics on wounded patients during the war thus worsening their conditions.
Fleming became famous for his research works. By 1928 Fleming had started off his research on the properties of ‘staphylococci’ bacteria. By this time Fleming had earned a high name as a great researcher. Fleming was known to keep his laboratory untidy. It was on 3 September 1928 when Fleming returned to his laboratory from an August holiday to find one of his staphylococci cultures (which he had stacked on a corner of a bench in his laboratory before leaving for his holiday) contaminated with a fungus. Fleming intently noted that the colonies of staphylococci that had immediately surrounded the affected culture were destroyed while other colonies kept far away remained normal. Fleming took the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Price for consultation. Merlin said that Fleming had chanced upon the discovery of lysozome. So Fleming decided to grow the mould in a pure culture and discovered that it was able to produce an element which killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. Fleming discovered the mould to be of the Penicillium genus. Soon after a few months he named the substance it released as ‘penicillin’ on 7 March 1929. Fleming extensively researched on the positive qualities (anti bacterial effect) of the element and found that it affected several bacteria such as staphylococci and many other Gram-positive pathogens that cause scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis and diphtheria. In 1929 Fleming brought his discovery in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology which did not attract much attention.
Fleming found it very difficult to extract and collect penicillium as there was much difficulty in isolating the antibiotic agent. Fleming continued with his quest for penicillin but started having the impression that its actions were slow and that it would not find importance in treating infections. Fleming started believing that penicillin would not have a lasting impact on the human body in killing the bacteria effectively. Several tests performed by him remained incomplete. However, Fleming’s researches on penicillin started finding firm shape in the 1930s. He strived till 1940 to arouse chemists’ interest in further refining usable penicillin.
After several years Fleming decided to give up his quest for penicillin. Soon after this, Florey and Chain, at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, started researching and successfully produced penicillin with the U.S. and British governments’ funds. The Pearl Harbour bombing on 7 December 1941 resulted in the Infirmary producing penicillin hugely which served in treating all the wounded allied forces.
On 23 December 1915, Fleming married a trained nurse, Sarah Marion McElroy. She died in 1949 leaving Fleming with their only child, Robert Fleming who later became a general medical practitioner. On 9 April 1953 Fleming married his second wife Dr. Amalia Koutsouri-Vourekas, a Greek colleague at St. Mary’s Hospital where Fleming had been attached throughout his life.
Awards and Honours
Fleming’s chance but firm discovery of penicillin changed the medicine world entirely. The inception of antibiotics and modern day medicines shaped the future for treating millions of people around the world. Fleming shared his knighthood along with Florey in 1944. In 1945 Fleming won his Nobel Prize in Medicine sharing the award with Florey and Chain. Fleming was honoured with the Hunterian Professorship by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Fleming died of a heart attack in 1955 at his London residence. One week after his death, Fleming was cremated and his ashes were interred in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Alexander Fleming Timeline:
1881 – Fleming was born on 6 August
1900 – Alexander had actively remained a member of the Volunteer Force
1903 – Alexander enrolled himself at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London
1906 – He earned a distinction which qualified him to become a surgeon
1908 – He earned his M.B. and later a B.Sc. with Gold Medal
1914 – Fleming was appointed as a lecturer at St. Mary’s where he remained till 1914
1915 – On 23 December Fleming got married to a trained nurse, Sarah Marion
1918 – Fleming could return to St. Mary’s Hospital
1928 – Fleming was chosen as the Professor of Bacteriology
1928 – Fleming had started off on his research of investigating the properties of ‘staphylococci’ bacteria
1928 – On 3 September Fleming chanced upon the discovery of penicillin
1929 – Fleming brought his discovery in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology
1929 – He named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March
1930 – Fleming’s researches on penicillin started finding firm shape in the 1930s
1940 – Fleming strived hard to arouse a chemist’s interest in further refining usable penicillin
1941 – The Pearl Harbour bombing on 7 December resulted in the Infirmary (Florey and Chain at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford) producing penicillin hugely which served in treating all the wounded allied forces
1944 – Fleming shared his knighthood along with Florey
1945 – Fleming won his Nobel Prize in Medicine sharing the award with Florey and Chain
1949 – Sarah Marion died leaving Fleming with their only child Robert Fleming who later became a general medical practitioner
1953 – On 9 April Fleming married his second wife Dr. Amalia Koutsouri-Vourekas
1955 – Fleming died on 11 March after suffering from a heart attack
Source: The Famous People.Com