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The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat: The Story of…

The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat: The Story of the Penicillin Miracle

by Eric Lax

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In 1928, Alexander Fleming, an eccentric Scottish microbiologist, saw how, by chance, penicillium mold inhibited the growth of certain dangerous and lethal bacteria. After a few years dabbling with his find, he gave up on it entirely to focus on other enzyme research. Ten years later, a group of dedicated chemists and other assorted scientists--Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, and Norman Heatley among them--happened upon Fleming's earlier research and decided to try to conduct large-scale experiments on the nature and mechanisms of the mold extract itself. The work that these fellows from Oxford conducted eventually resulted in Nobel Prizes and the virtual death-knoll for war-inflicted septicemia and lethal secondary infections. Eric Lax presents the history of the research with a rich fountain of personal correspondence and just enough cattiness to make scientists look like real people. A quick and engaging read. ( )
2 vote NielsenGW | Aug 20, 2011 |
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"The more intelligent the question you ask of Mother Nature, the more intelligent will be her reply."

Sir Charles Sherrington
For my son John
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On March 14, 1942, thirty-three-year-old Anne Miller lay in New Haven Hospital dying of blood poisoning.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805067906, Hardcover)

The untold story of the discovery of the first wonder drug, the men who led the way, and how it changed the modern world

The discovery of penicillin in 1928 ushered in a new age in medicine. But it took a team of Oxford scientists headed by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain four more years to develop it as the first antibiotic, and the most important family of drugs in the twentieth century. At once the world was transformed—major bacterial scourges such as blood poisoning and pneumonia, scarlet fever and diphtheria, gonorrhea and syphilis were defeated as penicillin helped to foster not only a medical revolution but a sexual one as well. In his wonderfully engaging book, acclaimed author Eric Lax tells the real story behind the discovery and why it took so long to develop the drug. He reveals the reasons why credit for penicillin was misplaced, and why this astonishing achievement garnered a Nobel Prize but no financial rewards for Alexander Fleming, Florey, and his team.

The Mold in Dr. Florey’s Coat is the compelling story of the passage of medicine from one era to the next and of the eccentric individuals whose participation in this extraordinary accomplishment has, until now, remained largely unknown.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:15 -0400)

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"Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin while examining a stray mold in his London laboratory in 1928, and its eventual development by a team at Oxford University headed by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, led to the introduction of antibiotics: the most important family of drugs of the modern era. Before World War II ended, penicillin had saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Almost immediately it also defeated major bacterial scourges, such as blood poisoning and pneumonia, scarlet fever and diphtheria, gonorrhea and syphilis - and, not incidentally, helped to foster a sexual revolution as well as a medical one." "The story of how the mold's active ingredients were isolated and transformed into the world's first wonder drug is little known. Likewise the credit for penicillin development is largely misplaced; Eric Lax explains why almost everyone remembers Fleming and almost no one remembers Florey and Chain. The development of penicillin was the last of four advances in a period of 150 years to deal effectively with infection. Unlike the other three discoveries, whose lifesaving qualities were immediately evident, the efficacy of the penicillin mold could not be determined until Florey's team performed its own laboratory magic." "Neither Fleming nor Florey ever made a dime from their achievements (though Fleming, Florey, and Chain did share a Nobel Prize). Nor did the British pharmaceutical companies grasp the potential of this new drug when it was first presented to them; instead it was the American labs - Merck, Abbot, Pfizer - who won patents on penicillin's manufacture and drew enormous royalties from its sale. Why it took twelve years to develop penicillin, and how it was finally accomplished, is a story of quirky individuals, brilliant science, shoestring research, wartime adventures, the birth of big-time drug companies, and the dramatic passage of medicine from one era to the next."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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