Penicillin—the first antibiotic used successfully to
treat serious infectious diseases—was developed by Howard
Florey. Alexander Fleming, a British scientist, noticed
in 1928 that mould had prevented the growth of bacteria
in his laboratory. Ten years later, Howard Florey and his
team transformed that mould into the life saving drug with
the aid of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Howard Walter Florey was born 24 September 1898 in Adelaide,
the son of Joseph and Bertha Mary Florey. He graduated
Adelaide University with degrees in medicine and surgery
in 1921 and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Magdalen
College, Oxford, leading to the degrees of science degree.
and Master of Arts in 1924. He then went to Cambridge as
a John Lucas Walker Student. In 1925 he visited the United
States on a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship for a year,
returning in 1926 to a Fellowship at Gonville and Caius
College, Cambridge, receiving his Doctorate in 1927.
In 1938, with Ernst Boris Chain and Norman Heatley, his
research team developed the large-scale production of the
mould and efficient extraction of the active ingredient,
to a point where, by 1945, penicillin production was widely
Howard Florey with Ernst Chain and Alexander
Fleming won the Nobel Prize for
Medicine in 1945.
Among the honours received by Florey were
the Lister Medal of the Royal College of Surgeons, the
Berzelius Medal of the Swedish Medical
Society, the Royal and Copley Medals of the Royal Society,
and the Medal of Merit of the US Army. He was elected President
of the Royal Society in 1959 and a Fellow of the Royal
College of Physicians, and among other honorary fellowships
he held one for the Royal Australian College of Physicians.
He was awarded honorary degrees by seventeen universities
and was a member or honorary member of many learned societies
and academies in the field of medicine and biology. In
1944 he was created a Knight Bachelor.
He married Mary Ethel
Hayter Reed in 1926 and they had two children.
In 1964 Florey
accepted the invitation to become Chancellor of the Australian
National University in Canberra.
The Queen made him Lord
Florey of Adelaide and Marston in 1965.
After the death
of Lady Ethel Florey, Lord Florey married Margaret Jennings
at the Old Register Office, St Giles London on 6 June
Howard Florey died in Oxford on 21 February 1968.
portrait appeared on the Australian $50 note for many years,
and a suburb in the national capital Canberra is named
after him. A
building in the University of Melbourne and the largest
lecture theatre in the University of Adelaide's medical
school are also named after him.
Sir Robert Menzies said that, in terms of world well being, Florey was the most
important man ever born in Australia.