January 31, 2020

It’s…A Medical Breakthrough…?

Returning from a two-week vacation in 1928, London bacteriologist Alexander Fleming looked at some cultured bacteria on petri dishes in his lab. Curious why no bacteria had grown near some chance mold contamination, he wondered if the “mold juice” somehow inhibited bacteria growth. That mold proved to be a rare strain of Penicillium, the secretions of which Fleming soon found killed a wide range of harmful bacteria and became isolated as penicillin.

Sidenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra, was originally intended to reduce blood pressure. It did not, but Pfizer researchers discovered that 80% of the male test subjects experienced the effect which the drug eventually became famous (and phenomenally profitable) for.

In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen was doing some experiments involving a glass vacuum tube with electrodes inside it when he noticed that the tube caused a glow on a screen nine feet away, even when shielded by heavy black cardboard. These new kind of rays were found to also pass through living tissue, and he soon took the world’s first human X-ray of his wife’s left hand, her bones and wedding ring clear on the photographic plate. Roentgen never patented his discovery, wishing to share it freely with the world.