- NAME: Alexander Fleming
- OCCUPATION: Biologist
- BIRTH DATE: August 06, 1881
- DEATH DATE: March 11, 1955
- EDUCATION: Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster), University of London, St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, Louden Moor School, Darvel School, Kilmarnock Academy
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Lochfield Farm, Darvel, Ayrshire, Scotland
- PLACE OF DEATH: London, England, United Kingdom
- Full Name: Sir Alexander Fleming
- AKA: Alexander Fleming
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Alexander Fleming was a doctor and bacteriologist who discovered penicillin, receiving the Nobel Prize in 1945.
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Alexander Fleming was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, on August 6, 1881, and studied medicine, serving as a physician during World War I. Through research and experimentation, Fleming discovered a bacteria-destroying mold which he would call penicillin in 1928, paving the way for the use of antibiotics in modern healthcare. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945 and died on March 11, 1955.
"I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did."
"One sometimes finds what one is not looking for."
Alexander Fleming, the seventh of eight children, was born on a farm in rural Lochfield, in East Ayrshire, Scotland, on August 6, 1881. He attended the Louden Moor School, the Darvel School and Kilmarnock Academy before moving to London in 1895, where he lived with his older brother, Thomas Fleming. In London, Fleming finished his basic education at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster).
Fleming was a member of the Territorial Army, and served from 1900 to 1914 in the London Scottish Regiment. He entered the medical field in 1901, studying at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School at the University of London. While at St. Mary's, he won the 1908 gold medal as the top medical student.
Alexander Fleming had planned to become a surgeon, but a temporary position in the Inoculation Department at St. Mary's Hospital changed his path toward the then-new field of bacteriology. There, he developed his research skills under the guidance of bacteriologist and immunologist Sir Almroth Edward Wright, whose revolutionary ideas of vaccine therapy represented an entirely new direction in medical treatment.
During World War I, Fleming served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He worked as a bacteriologist, studying wound infections in a makeshift lab that had been set up by Wright in Boulogne, France. Through his research there, Fleming discovered that antiseptics commonly used at the time were doing more harm than good, as their diminishing effects on the body's immunity agents largely outweighed their ability to break down harmful bacteria -- therefore, more soldiers were dying from antiseptic treatment than from the infections they were trying to destroy. Fleming recommended that, for more effective healing, wounds simply be kept dry and clean. However, his recommendations largely went unheeded.
Returning to St. Mary's after the war, in 1918, Fleming took on a new position: assistant director of St. Mary's Inoculation Department. (He would become a professor of bacteriology at the University of London in 1928, and an emeritus professor of bacteriology in 1948.)
In November 1921, while nursing a cold, Fleming discovered lysozyme, a mildly antiseptic enzyme present in body fluids, when a drop of mucus dripped from his nose onto a culture of bacteria. Thinking that his mucus might have some kind of effect on bacterial growth, he mixed it with the culture. A few weeks later, he observed that the bacteria had been dissolved. This marked Fleming's first great discovery, as well as a significant contribution to human immune system research. (As it turned out, however, lysozyme had no effect on the most destructive bacteria.)
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