Alexander Fleming (1881 - 1955) returned to his research laboratory at St. Mary's Hospital in London after World War I. His battlefront experience had shown him how serious a killer bacteria could be, much worse than even enemy artillery. He wanted to find a chemical that could stop bacterial infection.
Fleming’s lab was often in a mess. This disorder proved very fortunate. In 1928, he was cleaning the dishes, which had been piled in the sink. He examined each one before tossing it into the cleaning solution.
Some mold was growing on one of the dishes. There was nothing unusual about that! But all around the mold, the bacteria had been killed. This he thought was rather unusual. He took a sample of the mold. He found that it was from the penicillium family, later specified as Penicillium notatum. The first antibiotic had been discovered!!! Unfortunately, when Fleming presented his findings in 1929, it raised little interest. He published a report on penicillin and its potential uses in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology.
It was much much later during the time of World War II that penicillin was produced in large quantities for medicinal use. It took the efforts of scientists Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and a team of chemists to start large scale production. From January to May 1943, only 400 million units of penicillin had been made; by the time the war ended, U.S. companies were making 650 billion units a month.