Historical Perspectives: Sir Alexander Fleming

Contributed by Austin Schambach, Class of 2019

When you take a look back on the influences throughout the history of pharmacy, you can without a doubt identify Sir Alexander Fleming as one of the major players that contributed to development in the field.  He has written many papers that are published in medical journals due to their significance.  During Fleming’s early medical studies, he became particularly interested in natural bacteria.  He more so focused on the action it had in the blood and also the action in antiseptics.  Fleming’s critical contributions included the discovery of multiple substances, medical journal published papers, and the Nobel Prize he was awarded for his work.



Alexander Fleming is recognized for the discovery of many important substances, which positively altered the field.  While serving in hospitals during World War I in 1914, he stumbled upon the decision that antiseptics do more harm when used than they do to cure.  He stated that they mainly treat surface wounds but fail to treat anything deeper.  During his work, he examined tissues and secretions.  The examination of those aspects led to his discovery of a bacteriolytic enzyme that he later named a lysozyme.  At another point in his medical career, the experimenting with and observation of the influenza virus allowed him to make a few critical analyses.  Fleming noticed that a mold had developed on his staphylococcus culture.  The abnormal characteristic he saw on this mold was that it had circle around it, which he determined was bacteria free.   At that point he further worked with the culture and saw that it prevented the growth of staphylococci.  He stabilized and purified the specimen over and over but only confirmed his previous conclusion. He named this substance penicillin.  Based on his discoveries and other influential work, Sir Alexander Fleming produced many highly renowned writings.

Sir Alexander wrote several papers in a variety of fields like bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy.  Some of his papers even include the original findings of the lysozyme and penicillin. They have been published in medical and scientific journals.  The published papers allowed people to read and appreciate the work and approach of each crucial discovery that was made by Fleming throughout his decorated life’s work.  Not only was there an appreciation for his writings but he was also awarded a Nobel Prize for his field-altering discovery.

Fleming changed the field of medicine forever when he discovered penicillin in his experiments.  This Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to Fleming, Florey, and Chain in 1945.  He was accepted into every medical and scientific society as an honorary member because he was looked at as such an influential figure.  Alexander Fleming is more commonly known as Sir Alexander Fleming because in 1944 King George VI knighted him as Knight Bachelor.

In conclusion, Sir Alexander Fleming is considered one of the most influential figures throughout history in the field of not only medicine but also science as a whole.  Through various awards and a Nobel Prize, papers published in medical journals, and the discovery of many important substances, Fleming’s importance to the field does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.



“Alexander Fleming Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 26  Sept. 2016.

“Alexander Fleming Biography.” The Famous People- Society for Recognition of Famous People. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

“Sir Alexander Fleming – Biographical.” Sir Alexander Fleming – Biographical. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.




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