Alexander Fleming: the Scot who changed world medicine

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Consider how many lives Alexander Fleming has saved with the discovery of penicillin.

Most people return from a vacation to a stack of mail; Fleming returned to a universal miracle cure for infection.Lady Luck can take credit for the Penicillium Notatum mould growing in a sidelined petri dish, but the Scottish bacteriologist would have been more than a footnote in medical history with or without his observations that day. Born on 6th August 1881, Alexander Fleming grew up on a Scottish hill farm and spent much of his youth observing the natural world and recording his findings – a scientific dictum he would adhere to all his working life. At 14, he moved to London to complete his education. A legacy left to thim by his uncle allowed him to pursue a career in medicine. He chose St Mary’s Medical School after experiencing the water polo team’s admirable sportsmanship first-hand. He had hoped to qualify as a surgeon but at the turn of the century he accepted a post in the exciting new field of bacteriology. During WW1, Fleming worked as a ranking army medic from a military hospital lab set up in a French casino in Boulogne. Here he became an expert on the bacteriology of wound infection.

Sir Alexander Fleming carried shoulder high after his installation as Rector of the University of Edinburgh in 1952

Sir Alexander Fleming carried shoulder high after his installation as Rector of the University of Edinburgh in 1952

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