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Fleming was a Scottish bacteriologist and Nobel Prize winner, best known for his discovery of penicillin

Alexander Fleming was born in Ayrshire on 6 August 1881, the son of a farmer. He moved to London at the age of 13 and later trained as a doctor. He qualified with distinction in 1906 and began research at St Mary's Hospital Medical School at the University of London under Sir Almroth Wright, a pioneer in vaccine therapy. In World War One Fleming served in the Army Medical Corps and was mentioned in dispatches. After the war, he returned to St Mary's.

In 1928, while studying influenza, Fleming noticed that mould had developed accidentally on a set of culture dishes being used to grow the staphylococci germ. The mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. Fleming experimented further and named the active substance penicillin. It was two other scientists however, Australian Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who developed penicillin further so that it could be produced as a drug. At first supplies of penicillin were very limited, but by the 1940s it was being mass-produced by the American drugs industry.

Fleming wrote numerous papers on bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy. He was elected professor of the medical school in 1928 and emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of London in 1948. //1200 He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1943 and knighted in 1944. In 1945 Fleming, Florey and Chain shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Fleming died on 11 March 1955.



Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3, 1904 in Washington. He was an African-American physician who developed ways to process and store blood plasma in "blood banks." He died in 1950.

In 1938, Drew received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at Columbia University and train at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Drew developed a method for processing and preserving blood plasma, or blood without cells. Plasma lasts much longer than whole blood, making it possible to be stored or "banked" for longer periods of time. He discovered that the plasma could be dried and then reconstituted when needed. His research served as the basis of his doctorate thesis, "Banked Blood," and he received his doctorate degree in 1940. Drew became the first African American to earn this degree from Columbia.

As World War II raged in Europe, Drew was asked to head up a special medical effort known as "Blood for Britain." He organized the collection and processing of blood plasma from several New York hospitals, and the shipments of these life-saving materials overseas to treat causalities in the war. According to one report, Drew helped collect roughly 14,500 pints of plasma.

In 1941, Drew worked on another blood bank effort, this time for the American Red Cross. He worked on developing a blood bank to be used for U.S. military personnel.

But not long into his tenure there, Drew became frustrated with the military's request for segregating the blood donated by African Americans. //1200 At first, the military did not want to use blood from African Americans, but they later said it could only be used for African-American soldiers. Drew was outraged by this racist policy, and resigned his post after only a few months.



Samuel Hahnemann was a German physician who established a new system of medical treatment call homeopathy. He spoke many languages and supported himself as a translator while studying medicine, graduating in 1779.

Hahnemann became convinced that many medical treatments such as bloodletting did more harm than good, and looked for gentler ways to treat patients. He was one of many physicians in the 1700s who set out to explore systematically the use and effects of medical drugs.

Hahnemann suggested testing the effects of drugs on the healthy human body in order to obtain secure knowledge of a drug's effects. Following self-experimentation with the antimalarial drug quinine, Hahnemann noted that the drug had a similar effect to the illness it was supposed to cure - in a healthy person, a dose of quinine caused a fever. From this, Hahnemann developed the central idea of homeopathic medicine: the principle of 'like cures like' or the 'law of similars' - an idea that was also central to folk medicine.

When Edward Jenner introduced vaccination in 1798, Hahnemann considered this a confirmation of his principle. Hahnemann also came to assume that the body was highly sensitive to drugs during illness, and prescribed very small doses of drugs - hence the expression ‘homeopathic doses’ for very small amounts.

Homeopathy spread rapidly through Europe in the early 1800s. //1200 The first homeopathic hospital opened in 1832 in Leipzig. However, homeopathy also met with hostility from apothecaries and other medical practitioners. In 1835, Hahnemann moved to Paris, where he was a popular practitioner until his death.



Edward Jenner was an English country doctor who introduced the vaccine for smallpox. Previously a keen practitioner of smallpox inoculation, Jenner took the principle a stage further by inducing immunity against this killer disease via exposure to a harmless related disease, cowpox. His technique provided safer and more reliable protection than traditional inoculation.

Working in an agricultural community, Jenner knew of the country folklore that milkmaids never caught smallpox. They were known for their relatively flawless complexions, which were unmarked by smallpox scarring. However, they inevitably caught cowpox through their close work with cows. Jenner speculated that a bout of cowpox produced immunity against smallpox and even encountered locals who claimed to have deliberately infected themselves to provoke such a response. As a forward-thinking doctor who liked to experiment, Jenner wanted to prove his theory. In 1796 he inserted pus taken from Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid with cowpox, into a cut made in the arm of a local boy, James Phipps. Several days later, Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox. He was found to be immune.

Jenner called his new method ‘vaccination’ after the Latin word for cow (vacca). But Jenner had no explanation for why this method worked - no-one could see the virus with the microscopes of the time. He submitted a paper to the Royal Society the following year. //1200 It was met with some interest but further proof was requested. Jenner proceeded to vaccinate and monitor several more children, including his own son. The full results of his study were published in 1798, but his apparent discovery was met with much opposition, and even ridicule. In 1853, 30 years after Jenner’s death, smallpox vaccination was made compulsory in England and Wales.



Born into a large family based near Glasgow, John Hunter went to London in 1748 to work with his brother William, a successful obstetrician and physician. He showed an aptitude for anatomical work and also for securing a supply of corpses for dissection; he was probably present at the dissection of more than two thousand human bodies during the 12 years he spent working with his brother.

William ensured that his younger brother received training despite his lack of formal education. John Hunter entered St George's Hospital as a surgical pupil in 1754. He signed up as an army surgeon in 1760 and over two years gained much experience in managing wounds. He returned to London in 1763, where, hampered by a lack of formal apprenticeship, he found it difficult to establish a practice and so he worked in dentistry. He was finally admitted to the Company of Surgeons in 1768, after which he established a large practice and trained students, including Edward Jenner.

Hunter wrote several books, including one on venereal disease which was the first text to discuss venereal disease in a non-judgmental manner. He was rumoured to have inoculated himself with gonorrhoea as an experiment while writing the book. Hunter also performed many experiments on animals. When he became surgeon to King George III in 1776 he had access to the king's menagerie. When the king's elephant died Hunter performed the first dissection of an elephant.//1200

In 1783 he set up his own museum, which housed five thousand wet preparations, three thousand stuffed or dried animals, 1200 fossils, nearly a thousand osteology specimens and almost a thousand diseased organs. His collection was eventually bought by the nation and is now kept at the Royal College of Surgeons.



William Harvey was an English physician who was the first to describe accurately how blood was pumped around the body by the heart.

Harvey was born in Folkestone, Kent on 1 April 1578. His father was a merchant. Harvey was educated at King's College, Canterbury and then at Cambridge University. He then studied medicine at the University of Padua in Italy, where the scientist and surgeon Hieronymus Fabricius tutored him.

Fabricius, who was fascinated by anatomy, recognised that the veins in the human body had one-way valves, but was puzzled as to their function. It was Harvey who took the foundation of Fabricius's teaching, and went on to solve the riddle of what part the valves played in the circulation of blood through the body.

On his return from Italy in 1602, Harvey established himself as a physician. His career was helped by his marriage to Elizabeth Browne, daughter of Elizabeth I's physician, in 1604. In 1607, he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and, in 1609, was appointed physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1618, he became physician to Elizabeth's successor James I and to James' son Charles when he became king. Both James and Charles took a close interest in and encouraged Harvey's research.

Harvey's research was furthered through the dissection of animals. He first revealed his findings at the College of Physicians in 1616, //1200 and in 1628 he published his theories in a book entitled 'An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals', where he explained how the heart propelled the blood in a circular course through the body.

His discovery was received with great interest in England, although it was greeted with some scepticism on the Continent. He died on 3 June 1657.


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