On Tuesday 29 May, two blue plaques were unveiled at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and the former Radcliffe Infirmary. The sites— where Oxford scientists researched the isolation and purification of penicillin to treat bacterial disease in 1938-41 and held the first clinical trials in 1941— now commemorate the work done by Oxford scientists Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, and Norman Heatley.
Chain did invaluable work on early purification and identification, while the development of the unique therapeutic properties of penicillin was researched by Florey. The purification of penicillin and production of a safe and effective antibacterial agent was then achieved by Norman Heatley and Edward Abraham. Their work was particularly crucial in treating the wounded during the Second World War.
Lord Florey's links with Lincoln, although not widely known, spanned nearly thirty years from 1934 to 1962. His name will be a familiar one to members of the Lincoln MCR due to the series of MCR lectures held once a term, the Lord Florey Talk. It was also through his leadership that the Middle Common Room was established in 1958 at Lincoln College, the oldest MCR at Oxford. Norman Heatley and Edward Abraham were both amongst the first Penicillin Research Fellows at Lincoln College.
The advances made in penicillin at Oxford, alongside work done by Alexander Fleming, have estimated to have saved over 82 million lives, and earned Florey, Fleming, and Chain the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945.