History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Special Exhibition Label: 'Back from the Dead: Demystifying Antibioics' 04.11.2016 - 21.05.2017. Dunn School Case. Shelf 2.

Norman Heatley’s early efforts to grow penicillin used any convenient vessels that could provide a large surface area for the mould’s culture medium. The laboratory became home to cans of sheep dip (1), individual and stacked biscuit tins (2), pie dishes and bed pans (3). Seeking to increase production Heatley designed a rectangular ceramic vessel (4) that could be stacked. In total, 700 vessels were made by the Staffordshire Potteries firm James Macintyre and Co. Ltd. The first batch was seeded with spores of the mould on Christmas Day 1940 and the resulting penicillin was used to treat the first six patients in the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford in 1941.

All from the Museum of the History of Science: 1 (inv. 14867); 2 (three tiered tins inv. 17152 and Huntley and Palmer single tin inv. 24973); 3 (enamel pie dish with added lid inv. 30879 and bed pan inv. 18651); 4 (inv. 19146, 24937 and 26575).

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