Alexander Fleming was born on 6 August 1881 at Lochfield farm near Darvel, in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the third of the four children of farmer Hugh Fleming (1816–1888) from his second marriage to Grace Stirling Morton (1848–1928), the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. Fleming went to Loudoun Moor School and Darvel School, and earned a two-year scholarship to Kilmarnock Academy before moving to London, where he attended the Royal Polytechnic Institution. Fleming served throughout World War I as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was Mentioned in Dispatches. He and many of his colleagues worked in battlefield hospitals at the Western Front in France. In 1918 he returned to St Mary's Hospital, where he was elected Professor of Bacteriology of the University of London in 1928. By 1927, Fleming had been investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well-known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci immediately surrounding the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other staphylococci colonies farther away were normal, famously remarking "That's funny". Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Price, who reminded him, "That's how you discovered lysozyme." Fleming grew the mould in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mould as being from the Penicillium genus, and, after some months of calling it "mould juice", named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March 1929.
Of course penicillin has been of enormous therapeutic value. Unfortunately it has been grossly overused (maybe penicillin topping for pizza will be next). The laboratory where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin has been restored to its cramped condition of 1928 and incorporated into a museum about the discovery and his life and work. It is also known as the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum. Unfortunately there is no wheelchair acces to this museum. St Mary's Hospital is also famous for the fact that Heroin was discovered here in 1874. Today it is the scene of many Royal births. The museum caters to 15 different languages and will tailor a visit to your needs.
Location : St Mary's Hospital, Praed Street, W2 1NY
Opening Times: Monday to Thursday 10:00 to 13:00.
or by appointment at other times.
Tickets : Adults £4.00.
Children and Concessions £2.00.
Tel: 020 3312 6528.