Penicillin: From discovery to world-wide use? Who should take the credit?

Students have to divide a $100 million bequest to those people who did most to develop penicillin. But in what ratio? Should Fleming get it all? What about the Oxford team, Florey and Chain, even Heatley? Students create a living graph to show the turning points in development as a basis for their decision. They then identify and rank the factors that contributed to the development, both positively and negatively. For homework students complete a standard GCSE question which is peer-marked initially using mark scheme written for student use.

Learning objectives

  • Students can accurately explain Fleming’s role in the discovery of penicillin;
  • they can identify key turning points in the development of penicillin;
  • they can justify their apportionment of credit for the main individuals involved;
  • they can analyse factors involved and justify their judgement as to how significant each was.


Show slide 2, the front cover and citation from Time magazine for 1944. 55 years later (see slide 3) Fleming was named as one of the most important people in the 20th century. So how could an examination question suggest that there might be an alternative contender/factor more responsible? Slide 4 and 5 hint at possible rivals – the

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