Fleming was born in Lochfield near Darvel, East Ayrshire, Scotland, on August 6th, 1881. In 1906 he became a lecturer at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London and, in 1927, became bacteriologist-in-chief there. In 1928 he won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Ernst Boris Chain for their work together.
Fleming was born under the sign of Virgo, which suggests that he was a very logical and ordered individual who insisted on precision and perfection. Virgo rules over advertising, numbers, and research as well as writing, chemistry, and medicine.
- On September 3rd, 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent a month on holiday with his family and noticed that a culture dish of staphylococci seemed to have been contaminated by a blue-green mold from an open window which had been kept slightly open because of the heat from an electric fan.
- Fleming observed that a fungus contaminated the culture and that around the affected areas, there were many dead bacteria. He traced the area of contamination by moving down the bacterial plate from which he concluded that his discovery could be put to practical use.
- He continued studying the mold and, in 1929, published his findings. Fleming called penicillin ‘ mold juice’ and suggested its use in treating infections, which was not to happen for another 20 years. However, further study into how it worked showed that penicillin only affected bacteria, not human tissue or red blood cells. This led to its military and commercial use (there is a shortfall in the supply of drugs in wartime).
- On 28th February 1945, Fleming gave a lecture at the Royal Institution where he announced that an antibiotic derived from a mold might be available to treat infections in humans. During World War II, penicillin was used to combat infection of wounds; however, the supply was scarce, and many lives were lost before mass-produced.
- Fleming was a member of the British Association of Physicians, a fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, and a British Medical Association. He received many honors, including being knighted in 1944, making a CBE in 1951, and being awarded the Royal Medal in 1951. In 1945 Fleming was awarded the ‘Nobel Prize for Medicine’ with Ernst Boris Chain for their work on penicillin. The Nobel Prize award ceremony occurred on 10th December 1945 at Stockholm City Hall, with members from Britain, including David Milne, Sir John Cockcroft, and Sir Isaac Roberts attending.
- In 1953 Fleming was awarded the French Legion d’honneur and in 1967 the American Legion of Merit. In 1979 Fleming received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.
- Fleming’s first wife, Maud, died in 1947, his second wife Winifred died on October 12th, 1966, and he died on 11th March 1955 at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He is buried at Highgate Cemetery in London.
- Alexander Fleming died on 11th March 1955 at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He left £1,000 to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School for research purposes, resulting in the creation of The Sir Alexander Fleming Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, which opened on March 26th, 1960, but closed some years after his will expired on December 31st, 1974.