In 1928, before departing for a two-week holiday from St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming had piled up several petri dishes containing bacteria. He had neglected to seal them properly, and they became contaminated by airborne mould. On his return on September 28, he noted a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould.
‘I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic,’ Fleming would later say, ‘but I suppose that is exactly what I did.’ He published a paper on his findings, but was apparently such a poor communicator that it was years before the scientific community acknowledged his discovery.
Love London history? Check out the Old Operating Theatre Museum.