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Sir Alexander Fleming FRS FRSE FRCS (6 August 1881 – 11 March 1955) was a Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist. His best-known discoveries are the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the world’s first antibiotic substance benzylpenicillin (Penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy.
Fleming was knighted for his scientific achievements in 1944. Named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, in 2002 he was named among the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons.
Awards and honours
His discovery of penicillin had changed the world of modern medicine by introducing the age of useful antibiotics; penicillin has saved, and is still saving, millions of people around the world.
The laboratory at St Mary’s Hospital where Fleming discovered penicillin is home to the Fleming Museum, a popular London attraction. His alma mater, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, merged with Imperial College London in 1988. The Sir Alexander Fleming Building on the South Kensington campus was opened in 1998, where his son Robert and his great granddaughter Claire were presented to the Queen and is now one of the main preclinical teaching sites of the Imperial College School of Medicine.
His other alma mater, the Royal Polytechnic Institution (now the University of Westminster) has named one of its student halls of residence Alexander Fleming House, which is near to Old Street.
Fleming, Florey and Chain jointly received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945. According to the rules of the Nobel committee a maximum of three people may share the prize. Fleming’s Nobel Prize medal was acquired by the National Museums of Scotland in 1989 and is on display after the museum re-opened in 2011.
Fleming was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Fleming was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1943.
Fleming was awarded the Hunterian Professorship by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Fleming was knighted, as a Knight Bachelor, by king George VI in 1944.
He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X the Wise in 1948.
In 1999, Time magazine named Fleming one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, stating:
It was a discovery that would change the course of history. The active ingredient in that mould, which Fleming named penicillin, turned out to be an infection-fighting agent of enormous potency. When it was finally recognized for what it was, the most efficacious life-saving drug in the world, penicillin would alter forever the treatment of bacterial infections. By the middle of the century, Fleming’s discovery had spawned a huge pharmaceutical industry, churning out synthetic penicillins that would conquer some of mankind’s most ancient scourges, including syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis.
When 2000 was approaching, at least three large Swedish magazines ranked penicillin as the most important discovery of the millennium.
In 2002, Fleming was named in the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons following a nationwide vote.
A statue of Alexander Fleming stands outside the main bullring in Madrid, Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas.It was erected by subscription from grateful matadors, as penicillin greatly reduced the number of deaths in the bullring.
Flemingovo náměstí is a square named after Fleming in the university area of the Dejvice community in Prague.
A secondary school is named after him in Sofia, Bulgaria.
In mid-2009, Fleming was commemorated on a new series of banknotes issued by the Clydesdale Bank; his image appears on the new issue of £5 notes.
91006 Fleming, an asteroid in the Asteroid Belt, is named after Fleming.
More Links: Alexander Fleming Biography on nobelprize.org