Sir Alexander Fleming did not discover 'penicillin'.
Not in the common sense meaning of that word that we have all held since the early 1940s.
He certainly did discover that excretions from a certain penicillium mold killed a wide variety of dangerous bacteria without harming human cells - the first known substance to do so.
But he quickly declared that these natural excretions, which he labelled as penicillin, were useless at curing even the mildest of infections, if injected into the body.
FLEMING: PENICILLIN WILL ONLY BE USEFUL AS ANTISEPTIC AND ONLY IF PRODUCED SYNTHETICALLY
Fleming said that penicillin was only medically useful if dabbed on the surface of a wound (that is, when used as an antiseptic) and would only be viable as a conventional treatment if it was produced synthetically by chemists.
Martin Henry Dawson was another pioneer in penicillin research.
He did not discover penicillin and only became active with it eleven years after its discovery was announced in the scientific literature.
DAWSON: PENICILLIN WILL CURE IF INJECTED, EVEN AGAINST THE TOUGHEST INFECTIONS AND EVEN IF MADE NATURALLY
However, he not only believed that penicillin would cure if injected in the body, he believed it would cure the most incurable,intractable, infection that medicine ever faced : SBE, Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis.
Dawson was eventually proven right, reducing one of the most feared fatal diseases of young adults to a serious disease that was treatable and containable.
And Dawson's position on synthetic penicillin also was poles apart from that of Fleming (and of Fleming's rival Florey !) : it was 'synthetic if necessary but not necessary synthetic' .
In fact, he early on teamed up with the one penicillin manufacturer who put the production of natural penicillin in time to help the D Day invasion troops over mirages of synthetic penicillin some time after the war ended.
That company, Brooklyn's Pfizer, produced 80% of the penicillin that landed on the beaches of Normandy : natural not synthetic penicillin and intended for use by injection, not as an antiseptic .
Fleming certainly deserves some of the credit for penicillin.
But the fact that it took twelve years after his initial discovery of its healing powers before Dawson became the first person ever to give a dying patient a needle of antibiotics is a tragedy that must also be laid directly at Fleming's feet....