11th March 1955

Father of antibiotics dies suddenly

East Ayrshire-born Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, for which he was knighted and awarded the Nobel Prize. His discovery has saved countless lives.

The penicillin that Fleming discovered had developed while he was away on leave. When he returned to his laboratory, he noticed that the culture he had been studying had died in the vicinity of the newly grown penicillin. Further experiments revealed that the new substance was a bacteria killer or – as we would know it today – an antibiotic.

But it wasn’t an immediate success. Penicillin was difficult to produce in large quantities and research into other treatments continued. However, it wasn’t forgotten, and medical trials did eventually begin and, over time, ways were found to produce larger batches. Interest was particularly intense during the Second World War, when it was being used to treat wounded soldiers.

Death in London

Fleming died of a heart attack at his home in London. He was cremated and his ashes were interred at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Less than a week before his death, thieves had broken into his flat and stolen a safe containing valuables, and various items of jewellery from other rooms in the flat. He had been away from home at the time.



Other events that occured in March

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