Kulturkampf: The German Quest for Penicillin

Gilbert Shama looks at the German research into penicillin during the Second World War.

Faroe Islands stamp commemorating Fleming, from 1983

When in 1928 Alexander Fleming noticed that a mould had contaminated one of his petri dishes, apparently dissolving the bacteria growing on it, he was shrewd enough to isolate it in order to examine it more closely. The mould turned out to belong to a group known as the penicillia and was able to produce a substance that even at very low concentrations had the power to destroy many disease-causing bacteria. Fleming called this antibiotic substance ‘penicillin’.

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