Back from the Dead: Demystifying Antibiotics - banner for the special exhibition

4 November 2016 – 21 May 2017

Special Exhibition Gallery

This exhibition marks penicillin’s 75th anniversary as a life-saving drug. Discovered as an antibacterial substance produced by the penicillium notatum mould in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, it was turned into a medicine in Oxford ten years later and first tested on humans here in 1941. The success of penicillin was extraordinary; it seemed to bring patients back from the dead.

Penicillin became the most iconic drug of a new era of antibiotics. While vital to modern medicine, penicillin and other antibiotics have not eradicated infectious disease. Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics so the work of preventing and fighting infection continues not just in Oxford but around the world.

The exhibition brings together dramatic stories and surviving material from the original Oxford research, displayed in parallel with today’s antibiotic issues, allowing past and present to illuminate each other.

The exhibition starts by introducing the situation before antibiotics and key figures in their early development.

Featured Objects

Featured below are two key objects that are on display in the exhibition gallery together with a link to other objects in the museum’s collections database, many of which feature also.

Original Penicillin Culture and Penicillin Specimen (Recovered)
Original Culture and Specimen
Image (showing Dorothy Hodgkin’s model of penicillin) link to related objects
The Structure of Penicillin
Related Objects
Related Objects