The development of penicillin is one of the greatest stories in biomedical history. Perhaps more than any other drug, penicillin liberated medicine from its ineffectiveness against disease and brought a cure for the lethal common infections of pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia. This breakthrough may be regarded as the beginning of the age of the antibiotics, which has transformed doctor's and society's perceptions of medicine's properties.
Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin is well known. Less familiar is the crucial and inspiring work of doctors and scientists in Oxford who during the Second World War translated Fleming's observations into a therapeutic drug that would save millions of lives.
In 1945 the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded jointly to Alexander Fleming and two members of the Oxford group, Ernst Chain and Howard Florey, 'for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases'.
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