July 15, 1941 was a memorable day for the world as hope was born in a laboratory—hope that there might finally be a cure for bacterial infections.
This was the date that researchers from Great Britain, Howard Florey (an Australian) and Norman Heatley, arrived at the Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, carrying samples of freeze-dried mold cultures. Their research spurred the development of mass-produced Penicillin, an antibiotic that saved thousands of Allied soldiers in June of 1944, undoubtedly helping the allied victory in World War II.
Howard Florey was a visionary scientist who believed strongly that scientific research needed to be a group effort—not a typical practice for scientists in those days. Florey gathered a team of like-minded researchers at Oxford University in the 1930’s. Here, they commenced their efforts to search for substances that would fight bacteria that could infect a wound and often kill. One member of the team, Ernst Chain, found information about Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin mold in the 1920’s, a discovery that had gone no further in its development.
By 1940, the group led by Florey had performed experiments with astonishing results, showing that penicillin mold was effective in killing the deadly streptococcus bacteria that causes strep throat, scarlet fever and other diseases.
Since Britain was in the middle of the war, companies there were unable to help with large-scale production of penicillin. Undertaking a dangerous flight across the Atlantic, Florey and Heatley presented their findings before the laboratory in the United States. By late 1943, mass production of the drug had commenced, paving the way to save lives wherever it was administered.
July 15, 1941—a day to reflect upon the wonder of a medicine that has likely saved most of our lives.
Also on July 15 in History…
1779 – American troops under General A. Wayne conquered Ft. Stony Point, New York
1799 – The Rosetta stone was discovered (in the village of Rosetta in Egypt) by French Captain Pierre-Francois Bouchard during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign.
1806 – Zebulon Pike began his journey to explore the Southwest.
1815 – Napoleon surrendered to the British and was sent to live in exile on St. Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic. He died six years later at the age of 51.
1830 – Three Indian tribes (Sioux, Sauk and Fox) signed a treaty giving the United States most of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.
1870 – Georgia became the last Confederate state to be readmitted to the United States.
1876 – Baseball’s first no-hitter was pitched by George Bradley of the St. Louis Brown Stockings against the Hartford Dark Blues. J
So on this July 15, 2013, whether you’re at a baseball game, reading about history, or just sipping on some lemonade, may your day be blessed.