Alexander Fleming: Facts About the Scientist Who Discovered Penicillin

Here are some facts about Alexander Fleming.

  • Alexander Fleming was born in Lochfield, Ayrshire (Scotland) on 6th August 1881.
  • When he was twenty, Alexander started a course at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington, London.

  • His brother, Tom, was also a doctor.
  • After completing his medical degree, Fleming joined the research team at St Mary’s. He was the assistant to Sir Almroth Wright, a bacteriologist.
  • During World War 1, Alexander Fleming served as a captain in the Royal Medical Corps, working in the battlefield hospitals in France.
  • In France, Fleming had witnessed large numbers of soldiers dying from infected wounds. He realised that the antiseptics being used destroyed the patient’s immune system and didn’t effectively stop the invading bacteria. He set about trying to find anti-bacterial agents.

Alexander Fleming

  • Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic (bacteria killer) by accident on 28th September 1928. He had left his petri dishes stacked up in his laboratory during his holidays and returned to discover the presence of a bacteria destroying mould (penicillin).
  • Fleming capitalised on his stroke of luck by thoroughly testing penicillin. He discovered that it would affect many types of bacteria, such as the ones responsible for scarlet fever, meningitis, diphtheria and gonorrhoea.
  • Fleming published his research on penicillin and the scientists Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain built on Fleming’s findings and used them to mass produce penicillin in order to treat the wounded soldiers of World War 2.
  • Penicillin has saved the lives of millions of people.
  • Fleming was knighted in 1944, becoming Sir Alexander Fleming.
  • In 1945, Fleming, Florey and Chain were awarded the Nobel Prize.
  • Alexander Fleming died in 1955. He had a heart attack. He is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.