Fleming and Penicillin:
Fleming discovered pencillin in 1928 – He was studying staphylococci germs and saw that penicillium mould could kill the germs. He thought that penicillin (a drug made from the penicillium mould) might be a useful cure.
Factors which helped him:
- Chance: He left some staphylococci germs in a dish. Penicillium mould spores landed in the dish by accident. This led to Fleming’s discovery.
- Individual brilliance: Fleming was a genius. He saw that penicillium mould killed germs. He tested it on an eye infection and it worked. He realised this might be an important cure.
- Communication: Fleming wrote an article about penicillin in a medical journal. This spread his ideas further – across Britain and to the USA. (read about Florey & Chain)
Criticisms of Fleming's work:
- He was not the first to see penicillin. Joseph Lister had used it in the 1880s.
- Fleming was not able to make enough penicillin to cure humans. Fleming could not find a way of producing enough penicillin fast enough.
Florey & Chain and Penicillin:
Florey & Chain’s method of producing penicillin 1938-1941. Florey and Chain read Fleming’s article about penicillin. They found a way of mass-producing penicillium mould using a freeze-drying technique. Their method was used in America and Britain to produce large amounts of penicillin.
Factors which helped them:
- Communication: faster communication and travel spread Florey & Chain's ideas to the USA where the American government heard of it. The American government wanted to use penicillin to treat soldiers.
- Government: the American government gave Florey & Chain enough money to fund five years’ of research. Without it, they would not have been able to discover their new method of producing penicillin.
- Drugs companies: after 1941 they set up huge factories to mass produce penicillin because they could make a profit from selling it as a cure
- War: World War 2 broke out in 1939. The American and British governments funded development of penicillin because they saw how useful it would be for treating injured soldiers
Who was more important – Fleming or Florey &Chain?
Some people say Fleming was more important. He was the first to write about penicillin’s power. His article on penicillin inspired Florey and Chain to begin work on mass-producing the drug.
Florey & Chain:
Some say Florey & Chain were more important. Fleming was unable to grow enough penicillium mould. If it wasn’t for Florey & Chain’s massproduction methods, it would have been impossible to make enough to treat a human. Besides, Fleming wasn’t even the first person to discover penicillin.