It is hard for us nowadays to imagine the world before antibiotics. Death from infection was commonplace and surgical procedures were fraught with danger. Howard Florey’s brilliant research changed all that.
Florey was born and raised in Adelaide. His hard work and natural talents earned him educational scholarships culminating in his graduation from Adelaide Medical School in 1921. But there was no money for research in Adelaide and winning a Rhodes Scholarship took him overseas to pursue his destiny. His work with a wonderful Oxford scientific team, including his wife Ethel, on research abandoned by Alexander Fleming in 1928 led to the eventual development of penicillin for clinical use and introduced the new era of antibiotics which now saves millions of lives every year.
Florey’s host of honours and achievements included a Nobel Prize award, presidency of the Royal Society and the inaugural Chancellorship of the Australian National University, which he had helped to establish at the request of the Australian Government.
Howard Florey died in Oxford on 21st of Febrary 1968 at the age of 70.
In 1972, a $50 note with Florey’s image on it was issued. A $1 coin with Florey’s portrait has been minted in honour of his centenary.
The mould that Fleming accidentally discovered in 1928 was called penicillium notatum. The golden droplets it produces are rich in an enzyme that can dissolve bacteria.
Florey at the official opening of the John Curtin School of medical Research, at the Australian National University in Canberra.
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