Nobel Prize Award for Physiology and Medicine 1941 - 1945

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine from 1941 to 1945 interruption for World War II, Fleming and pencillin, as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1941 No Award

1942 No Award

1943 Henrik Dam (1895- ), Danish. Work: Discovery of vitamin K.

Edward A. Doisy (1893- ), American, Work: Discovery of chemical nature of vitamin K.

1944 E. Joseph Erlanger (1874-1965), American.

Herbert S. Gasser (1888-1963), American. Work: Research in functions of single nerve fibers.

1945 Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), British.

Howard W. Florey (1898-1968), British.

Ernst B. Chain (1906- ), British (b. Germany). Work: Discovery of penicillin and its ability to cure certain diseases.

Behind the Award--Experimenting with staphylococcal germs in 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming found a blue-green mold on one of his culture plates that was close to an open window. The germs in the culture were dead. Fleming, in his publication of the results of the experiments, wrote one paragraph on the idea that the mold might be a disease-fighter. Ten years later, Florey and Chain extracted a small amount of the active principal from the mold. To test it out, they gave 8 mice a dose of streptococci, then, according to Florey, "We sat up through the night injecting penicillin every 3 hours into the 4 mice. I must confess that it was one of the more exciting moments when we found in the morning that all the untreated mice were dead and all the penicillin-treated ones alive." Penicillin saved the lives of countless wounded soldiers in 1942. It soon was lauded as a miracle drug. It was true that it could cure blood poisoning, bone infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhea. Fleming predicted that it would one day be used in toothpaste and lipsticks. Of course, because of its side effects and the fact that it becomes less effective with repeated use, his prediction has not come true. The 1st potent strain of penicillin in the U.S. was developed from mold found on a rotten cantaloupe in a Peoria, Ill., market. The discoverers of the usefulness of penicillin made very little money from it. When Dr. Chain heard that they had won the prize, he said, "Is it true? Are you sure? After all, no one in our group has ever received a penny out of penicillin."

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