Accidental Scientific Discovery and Invention - Penicillin

About the accidental scientific discovery of penicillin, history and information.


Discovery: Penicillin

Discoverer: Sir Alexander Fleming, Great Britain

Year: 1928

How Discovered: Fleming, a young British bacteriologist, was working on diseases caused by bacteria. One day in 1922 he happened to have a cold, and a drip from his nose fell into a dish containing a culture of bacteria. Fleming was annoyed that one of his carefully prepared cultures had been ruined. But he was surprised to find that the accidental drip of mucus from his nose had killed off any bacteria it had come in contact with. Fleming isolated the active agent in the mucus. But this agent proved too weak against the main disease-carrying bacilli.

However, chance favored Fleming yet again--six year later. Contamination from the air "ruined" one of the colonies of staphylococci he was growing, and a mold grew over the bacteria. But where the mold was, there were no staphylococci at all; they had been killed by the wonder drug penicillin. But chance had a big hand in this discovery. If the contaminating spore had not belonged to the rare mold Penicillium notatum and had the culture not been that of a staphylococcus, vulnerable to the antibacterial substance that this mold produces, we might still be awaiting the miracle drug.

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