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The Story of Penicillin

Nature volume 160, pages 3839 (12 July 1947) | Download Citation



In order to write both an accurate and a vivid account of the development of penicillin, David Masters has interviewed many people who played leading and even subsidiary parts in this story. Of the leading characters, notably Fleming and Florey, we are given a short life-history and personal description. Other participants come into the narrative only to describe that stage in the research in which their contribution mattered most. Scraps of conversation at critical moments are presumably recollections by the speakers of what they are likely to have said, and the circumstances attending more important occasions include a mention that the decision by Florey and Chain to investigate the possibilities of penicillin was taken under a particular tree while walking through the University Parks at Oxford. Heatley's night vigil with the first experimentally treated mice, his subsequent encounter with Home Guard while cycling home, and the anxieties of his journey to the United States with Florey—anxiety for the safety of the cultures they took with them when temperatures on the southern flying-boat ute were well above the optimum for Penicillium tatum—are episodes of the kind which enliven this rrative.

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