Alexander Fleming

Yesterday was the birthdate of a man to whom we owe many lives.

Alexander Fleming was born near Darvel in Ayshire on the 6th August 1881.  After his general education at Darvel and Kilmarnock, he moved to London and began training at St Mary’s hospital Medical School, where his elder brother had also trained as a physician.

Passing his degree with honours, he continued working at the college in the research department, working on bacteriology.

He participated in world war 1 in the Army Medical Corps, returning to St Mary’s Hospital afterwards.

His research on returning to the hospital was based on the effects of antiseptic that he had seen previously, especially during the war.  Antiseptic in those days was effective on shallow wounds but not deep wounds, and he was eager to find out why and what could be done to improve it.

While studying certain bacteria, he went on a family holiday, simply leaving the bacterial slides stacked in a corner.  On his return, he found one had developed a mould, which had seemingly killed other bacteria around it.  Working from this base, he grew more of the mould and tested it upon other types of bacteria, finding that it was effective in killing these.  Finding that it came from a penicillium mould, he named it Penicillin and the antibiotic was born.

It would take almost 20 years and many more reasearchers to stabilize and mass produce the drug that is known today, from Fleming’s orginal findings.

Fleming was knighted by King George V in 1944 and jointly won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945, for his work on bacteriology.

A regular Ayrshire man, who became one of the most important people in history, who saved many lives, and is still saving lives to this day, even though he died in 1955.  Why do we not celebrate him in this area as much as we do Rabbie Burns?????


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