* Subtitled 'The Remarkable True Story of the Penicillin Miracle', this book is a wonderful combination of modern narrative history and popular science.
Many people know that in 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin's antibiotic potential while examining a stray mould that had bloomed in a dish of bacteria in his London laboratory. But few realise that Fleming worked only fitfully on penicillin until 1935, and that he is merely one character in the remarkable story of the antibiotic's development as a drug. The others are Howard Florey, Professor of Pathology at Oxford University, where he ran the Dunn School; the German Jewish emigre and biochemist Ernst Chain; and Norman Heatley, one of the few scientists in Britain capable of the micro-analysis of organic substances. It was these three men and their colleagues at the Dunn School who would battle a lack of money, a lack of resources and even each other to develop a drug that would change the world. It was these three men and their colleagues who would be almost forgotten. Why this happened, why it took fourteen years to develop penicillin, and how it was finally done, is a story of quirky individuals, missed opportunities, medical prejudice, brilliant science, shoestring research, wartime pressures and misplaced modesty.
Admirable, superbly researched ... Perhaps the most exciting tale of science since the apple dropped on Newton's head - Simon Winchester, NEW YORK TIMES
Veteran journalist and author Lax takes a revealing look back at the time when world-altering science was done on a shoestring, bringing to brilliant life the story of the first great antibiotic ... Informative and thoroughly enjoyable science history - KIRKUS REVIEWS
[Lax] tells the stories of these four remarkable scientists adroitly . . . and reinserts them into their rightful place in scientific history. - INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
A fascinating story of serendipity, wounded egos and medical myths. - GUARDIAN