BREAKING THE MOULD: THE REAL STORY OF PENICILLIN
Emeritus Professor Michael James, University of Cape Town
Friday 26 January 1.00 pm COURSE FEES R11O; Staff and students R55
Alexander Fleming is almost universally acknowledged as discoverer of penicillin and the father of the antibiotic revolution. The real story is far more complex and exciting. Fleming’s chance observation that a fungus could inhibit the growth of bacteria appeared to have enormous potential but Fleming was unable to develop usable penicillin and all but abandoned further pursuit of his discovery. Ten years later, the story shifts to Oxford University and then to Peoria, Illinois, in the early days of World War II. The remarkable tale of how dedicated scientists were able to convert Fleming’s ‘mould juice’ into the first real weapon against lethal bacterial diseases is one of the great stories of medical science and one that may have shifted the balance of the war. The realisation that this new medicine could combat not only the dreaded war wound infections, but also an array of other diseases, changed the world.