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The Geek Atlas by John Graham-Cumming

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038

Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum, London, England

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Fleming’s Cramped Laboratory

Antibiotics and penicillin are likely the first things that come to mind when the name Alexander Fleming is mentioned. And, certainly, Fleming did accidentally discover in 1928 that the fungus Penicillium notatum prevented the bacteria staphylococcus from spreading in a culture dish. But the story of antibiotics is much larger than Fleming’s discovery, and this museum is the place to get the complete picture.

The museum, spread over four floors, has an in situ reconstruction of Fleming’s 1928 laboratory (Figure 38-1), complete with his microscope, samples of Penicillium notatum prepared by Fleming himself, a culture plate showing the effect of penicillin mold on Staphylococcus aureus (the most common cause of staph infections) and on B. Coli (a bacteria that resides happily in pigs and can jump over to humans, resulting in severe bowel problems), and a culture dish showing penicillinase (the enzyme responsible for penicillin resistance).

While Fleming is the star of antibiotic research, he wasn’t the first to produce an antibiotic. His 1929 paper on his discovery, which shows that he tested penicillin against a range of pathogens, was largely ignored. And Fleming never ...

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