06 August-Sir Alexander Fleming

Dr Robert Fleming unveiled a monument to his parents Sir Alexander and Lady Sarah Fleming in Kincon near Killala Co Mayo, Ireland in 2001. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in September 1928. At the unveiling Robert Fleming recalled the many visits the Fleming family made to Mayo when he was growing up.

Alexander Fleming was born near Darvel, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1881. He attended Kilmarnock Academy, where John Boyd Orr another Nobel laureate was also educated. It is one of the few schools in the world to have two past pupils who are Nobel Laureates. At the age of thirteen Fleming moved to London where he lived with his older brother who was a doctor. He studied at what was then the Regent Street Polytechnic, now the University of Westminster later going on to work in the shipping industry. In 1903 he entered St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington, London and qualified as a doctor in 1906. He later worked as a lecturer at St Mary’s before joining the Army Medical Corps in 1914. He served in France during World War I and returned to work in St Mary’s in 1918. He was elected Professor of Bacteriology at the University of London in 1928. In 1945 Fleming was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the discovery of penicillin.

Sarah McElroy was born in Leigherntain, Kilfian in 1881. After leaving school she went to Australia where she trained as a nurse. She returned to Ireland and practised in Dublin for a time before moving to London where she established her own Nursing Home.

Alexander Fleming and Sarah McElroy met while they were both working in London. They were married in 1915 when Alexander, then a captain in the Medical Corps, was on leave from France. Their son, Robert, qualified as a doctor.

Besides the Nobel Prize Fleming was the recipient of numerous awards during his lifetime. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1943 and was knighted by King George VI in 1944. He died at his home in London on March 11th 1955 at the age of 73.

Alexander Fleming was born in the year 1881 On This Day.

Sir Alexander Fleming photo

Plaque, Fleming’s house in London

Photo by Spudgun67

Killala photo

Killala Bay


Photo by On the White Line

Courtesy Jarlath Judge, Wexford Photography.




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