ALEXANDER FLEMING (1881-1955)

1929 – England

‘First identification of an antibiotic – the discovery of penicillin’

The chance discovery of a mould in 1928 led to the development of a non-toxic drug, which is used to combat the bacteria that infect wounds.

Whilst Paul Erlich (1854-1915) worked in Germany to produce a ‘magic-bullet’, a compound or dye that could stick to bacteria and damage them, Alexander Fleming’s chance discovery of the antibacterial properties of the mould Penicillium notatum led him to conclude there was a chemical produced by the mould that would attack the bacterial agents of disease.

Whilst searching for a naturally occurring bacteria-killer, Fleming’s experiments were concentrated on the body’s own sources, tears, saliva and nasal mucus.

The chance discovery of the anti-bacterial properties of Penicillium notatum was not developed commercially until World War Two over a decade later.

picture of the Nobel medal - link to nobelprize.org

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ROBERT OPPENHEIMER (1904- 67)

1942 – USA

‘I am become death, the destroyer of Worlds’

5.30 AM 16th July 1945

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EDWARD TELLER (1908-2003)

1952 – USA

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EDWARD TELLER

In 1950 the H-Bomb project was begun in earnest, with Teller in a key role. Collaborative work between Teller and Stanislaw Marcin Ulam (1906-86) resulted in a thermonuclear device being ready by late 1951, with a public testing in 1952. This is a hydrogen-fusion device, as opposed to the atomic nuclear bomb. The latter works by essentially splitting the nucleus of the heavy, uranium atom; the former as an offshoot of forcing the conversion of hydrogen to helium. It was ENRICO FERMI (1901-54) who pointed out the possibility that an atomic explosion could cause enough heat and pressure to force a thermonuclear reaction of a hydrogen isotope, unleashing an even greater force.

Scientific theory had hinted at this possibility ever since it was realised that a helium atom was slightly lighter than it should be given its component parts. An application of Einstein’s E=mc2 equation explained that the mass ‘lost’ in the fusion was being converted into huge amounts of energy, the basis upon which the Sun works, fusing hydrogen atoms into helium under great temperature and pressure and giving off the difference as radiation.

Teller testified against ROBERT OPPENHEIMER during the investigation of alleged ‘disloyalty’.

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