Author(s): Eric Lax
The remarkable true story of the Penicillin Miracle
Many people know that in 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin's antibiotic potential by chance while examining a stray mould that had bloomed in a dish of bacteria in his London laboratory. But few realise that Fleming was unable to isolate penicillin from the medium it grows in, and that he is merely one - and by no means the most important - character in the story of the antibiotic's development.
The others are Howard Florey, an Australian who in 1935 became Professor of Pathology at Oxford University; the German Jewish emigre Ernst Chain; and the Englishman Norman Heatley, whose practical genius was critical. Against the backdrop of the Second World War, it was these three men and their colleagues at the Sir William Dunn School who battled against a lack of money, a lack of resources, and even each other to develop a drug that would change the world. First published 2004.