The biologist Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillin on this date in 1928, but this revolutionary event may not have occurred if Sir Fleming had been fastidious with cleaning. Fleming had failed to clean his laboratory before leaving on a two-week vacation, including petri dishes containing staphylococci left in the sink. However, he saw that an unusual mold had grown on one of the dishes and had killed the bacteria; after growing the mold in a culture, he identified it as belonging to the Penicillium genus. Fleming had previously discovered the antibacterial enzyme lysozyme after letting his nose drip into a petri dish – and seeing that the liquid killed the bacteria growing in the dish. An act of genius or grossness?

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