Early sample of Fleming’s mould, 1935/1936
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin with the help of the arts. He was a self-taught painter, creating art from microbial cultures — a hobby that triggered a breakthrough in antibiotics. Fleming’s lab was cluttered with petri dishes of bacteria in search of natural pigments to use in his germ paintings. He eventually found a green fungus killing the bacteria in the cultures. This would become the first effective antibacterial drug. Interestingly, Fleming coined the word penicillin from Penicillium (its latin root meaning “painter’s brush”) because, under the lens of a microscope, it resembles a paintbrush.
Read more about how he uncovered the effects of Penicillium in Smithsonian magazine.
(via Science Museum)