Which came first: round the world flight or penicillin?

28 Sep

I have a feed to This Day in History in the column to the right.  Today I found out the following.

Round The World Flight ( 1924 ) :

Two U.S. Army planes landed in Seattle, Washington. completing the first round-the-world flight in 175 days.

New York Times has this today: Sept. 28, 1924 | First Around-the-World Flights Touch Down in Seattle, and from reading the article I then followed the link in it and found out that on this day in 1787 – Congress voted to send the Constitution to state legislatures for their approval.

So the answer to the question in the title is Round the World Flight happened before Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin.  Before penicillin there were only sulfa drugs.  Flemings discovery replaced sulfa drugs and led the way to other forms of antibiotics that have saved the lives of what has to be millions of people around the world.  Stop and think about the difference that drug has made. 

Alexander Fleming – 28th September ( 1928 ) :

While working at his laboratory at St Mary’s Hospital, London Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin by accident when he noticed that many of his culture dishes were contaminated with a fungus that had a positive anti bacterial effect on multiple organisms providing the basic block for the start of modern antibiotics.

Short bio can be found here: Alexander Fleming he also won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 for his discovery of penicillin.  He is credited with the following quote: “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.”

Image of the week: penicillin production, 20th Century amazing picture of glass flasks and milk churns which was state of the art production, then consider what we expect today…

I thought it was bizarre that the flight round the world happened in 1924, just 21 one years after the Wright brothers made the first human-powered flight, and 4 years before Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, and that it would take until after WWII for mass production of the drug, and that penicillin wasn’t used in the US until 1942 – 14 years after the discovery. 

Seems like not much has changed, things that make life easier or can be used in wars have monies spent developing them and everyone jumps on board the band wagon, but funding for disease and drug research doesn’t seem to have the same priority level in the general public or elected government representatives minds.


Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Which came first: round the world flight or penicillin?

  1. Raven

    September 29, 2011 at 5:05 am

    Great entry, Big Boss! My favorite undergraduate course in college was “History of Medicine.” It’s truly amazing how much world events are critically affected by medical discoveries. I remember learning about Alexander Fleming and how he changed our world with his accidental discovery of penicillin.

    It’s difficult for so many of us to realize what the world was like before the advent of antibiotics. I know you’re into genealogy, though, so I’m sure you’ve seen how many children were lost in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, mainly from contagious disease. I’ve seen federal censuses of my own forebears that show seven or eight children living at home…and then four or five of them are completely missing from the next census taken ten years later.

    I’m always blown away by a story my late grandmother told me. Several years before Fleming discovered penicillin, my grandfather drove from Texas back to Los Angeles with appendicitis. His appendix ruptured a couple hours before he arrived back home…and he was rushed into surgery at Queen of Angels hospital. The surgeons took out every single organ and placed them on his chest while they cleaned up the carnage. It just blows my mind that he survived not only a ruptured appendix but also such a major operation with no antibiotics. He lived until 1972, at which time he passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 69…several weeks after my son was born.


  2. The adopted ones

    September 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm


    I was talking to mom yesterday and she did not believe me about when penicillin was discovered – we argued for quite a while, because she remembered the difference it made late in WWII when they replaced sulfa drugs and how so many soldiers lived at the end vs the beginning. It took her a while to realize the time between discovery and production. I think if families who lost members early in the war had thought of that they would have been really upset.

    You are so correct about the sheer mortality of kids prior to that – horrific numbers – especially for the poor.



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