SIR ALEXANDER FLEMING
This essay is related to the life history and achievements of a great
English scientist, Alexander Fleming. He was born in 1881 on a farm near Darvel,
in Ayrshire; he was the youngest of a family of eight. His father died when he
was seven years old. He got his early education from a local school and then it
was decided to keep him at school. So he was sent to Kilmarnock Academy. At
fourteen, he went to London and for he next couple of years he studied at the
Regent Street Polytechnic.
St the age of sixteen, he
took a job of clerk in a shipping firm. He wanted to become a doctor but the
financial problem was a great obstacle in the way. To his good luck, he got a
share in a legacy and joined St Mary Medical School. In 1906, he passed his
final examination in medicine. After this he joined the staff of St. Mary’s
Hospital and started his research on germs and antiseptics. In the First World
War, he joined Army Medical Corps. Before talking about his great discovery
“Penicillin,” it would be better to have a glance on the past about the
causes of diseases and their treatment.
Nearly, in the middle of the nineteenth century a French Scientist
Pasteur discovered that many human diseases were caused by germs (microbes).
Lord Lister a famous English surgeon found that certain chemical substance
called antiseptics could destroy disease-producing germs. One of these
substances was carbolic acid that was effectively used by Lister and others to
kill germs from surgical instruments and the shin of the patient. However,
carbolic acid proved very harmful for the white cells of blood when it was
injected to kill the germs that were present inside toe body of the patient. Moreover,
no antiseptic was available then, which could destroy the germs present inside
the body without harming the white cells of blood.
Alexander Fleming was working as a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps
in the First World War. Millions of people were suffering and expiring due to
infected wounds. The aseptic and antiseptic methods of Lister had failed to
produce the desired results on human body. He continued his research. In 1922,
he was able to discover a natural antiseptic from the material of his nose. It
was called Lysozyme that could kill the germs inside the body without having any
bad effect on white cells of blood. This substance did not prove of much
practical importance in the treatment of diseases. However, it opened door for
Fleming to seek for other antiseptics.
In 1928, Fleming was working as Professor of Bacteriology in the
University of London. Them, he was performing experiments on bacteria. He was
growing them on glass plates to study their characteristics. During this
process, when he removed the cover of one of the plates, by chance, a mould
spore fell on it and started growing. Fleming was surprised to observe that the
germs had completely disappeared from the places where the mould had grown. This
was really an amazing thing for him. He thought that the mould had something in
it that had destroyed the bacteria. So he performed more experiments to confirm
this property of the mould. He did so by plating the mould on meat broth. It
grew on the surface and turned the broth yellow. After some days the broth was
filtered and tested for its anti-bacterial properties. The results were as
favorable as before and Fleming came to know that he had discovered another
antiseptic with greater possibilities than lysozyme. He called it penicillin. It
was discovered that the new substance could kill the germs inside the body
without killing the white cells of blood.
Penicillin was present in its most unstable form. So the next step was to make it stable and to produce it in laboratory in large quantity. Fleming could not do so because he was not a chemist. However, two chemists of London University, Professor H. Florey and Dr.E.B Chain were able to produce a practical concentration of Penicillin in 1941. In 1943, it was tried on human being for its effects and was proved very useful. Nit saved the lives of millions of people in the Second World War.
Fleming had discovered Penicillin and provided other to seek for new antibiotics. He was Knighted in 1944 and awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945. Fleming declared that he had not made anything because Penicillin was made by nature and he added that he had only discovered it. Sir Alexander Fleming died in 1955 at the age of seventy-three but his work will remain alive. Later, on basis of his work, another important antibiotic, Streptomycin was discovered.
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