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Profile of the Day: Alexander Fleming

Profile of the Day: Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming

On this day in 1881, Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming was born. Fleming is best remembered for discovering penicillin. His accidental find would become one of the most important discoveries in the history of science.

Fleming was born on August 6, 1881 at Lochfield farm near Darvel, Scotland. He was the third of four children born to Hugh Fleming, a farmer, and his second wife, Grace Stirling Morton. Fleming spent four years working at a shipping office before attending medical school at St. Mary’s Medical School in London. During his time at St. Mary’s, Fleming began researching under Almroth Wright, a pioneer in vaccine therapy and immunology. During World War I, Fleming served as a captain in the Army Medical Corps.

In 1928, Fleming made history when he accidentally discovered penicillin. Before leaving on a family vacation, Fleming left out a stack of unwashed petri dishes containing bacteria cultures in the sink. When he returned to his lab on September 28, 1928, Fleming found something unusual. The petri dish had been contaminated with mold spores, which had grown during Fleming’s time away. He observed that the staph bacteria around the mold had been killed. After further experimentation with the mold, Fleming realized he had discovered something truly remarkable. Penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic, revolutionized the world of medicine and has helped save millions of lives since its discovery. In 1945, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain.

Fleming died on March 11, 1955 at the age of 73.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons


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