This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 28 is the 271st day of the year (272nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 94 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1928, the antibiotic Penicillin was discovered. It’s discovery is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. He showed that, if Penicillium notatum was grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties, which he dubbed penicillin. This serendipitous observation began the modern era of antibiotic discovery. The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey together with the German Nobel laureate Ernst Chain and the English biochemist Norman Heatley.
However, several others reported the bacteriostatic effects of Penicillium earlier than Fleming. The use of bread with a blue mould (presumably penicillium) as a means of treating suppurating wounds was a staple of folk medicine in Europe since the Middle Ages. The first published reference appears in the publication of the Royal Society in 1875, by John Tyndall. Ernest Duchesne documented it in an 1897 paper, which was not accepted by the Institut Pasteur because of his youth. In March 2000, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, Costa Rica published the manuscripts of the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944). They reported Picado’s observations on the inhibitory actions of fungi of the genus Penicillium between 1915 and 1927. Picado reported his discovery to the Paris Academy of Sciences, yet did not patent it, even though his investigations started years before Fleming’s. Joseph Lister was experimenting with penicillum in 1871 for his Aseptic surgery. He found that it weakened the microbes but then he dismissed the fungi.
Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928. It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded that the mould was releasing a substance that was repressing the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered that it was a Penicillium mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum. Charles Thom, an American specialist working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the acknowledged expert, and Fleming referred the matter to him. Fleming coined the term “penicillin” to describe the filtrate of a broth culture of the Penicillium mould. Even in these early stages, penicillin was found to be most effective against Gram-positive bacteria, and ineffective against Gram-negative organisms and fungi. He expressed initial optimism that penicillin would be a useful disinfectant, being highly potent with minimal toxicity compared to antiseptics of the day, and noted its laboratory value in the isolation of “Bacillus influenzae” (now Haemophilus influenzae). After further experiments, Fleming was convinced that penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931. He restarted clinical trials in 1934, and continued to try to get someone to purify it until 1940.
48 BC – Pompey the Great is assassinated on the orders of King Ptolemy of Egypt after landing in Egypt.
351 – Battle of Mursa Major: the Roman Emperor Constantius II defeats the usurper Magnentius.
365 – Roman usurper Procopius bribes two legions passing by Constantinople, and proclaims himself Roman emperor.
935 – Saint Wenceslas is murdered by his brother, Boleslaus I of Bohemia.
1066 – William the Conqueror invades England: the Norman Conquest begins.
1106 – The Battle of Tinchebrai – Henry I of England defeats his brother, Robert Curthose.
1238 – Muslim Valencia surrenders to the besieging King James I of Aragon the Conqueror.
1322 – Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor defeats Frederick I of Austria in the Battle of Muhldorf.
1448 – Christian I is crowned king of Denmark.
1542 – Navigator Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho of Portugal arrives at what is now San Diego, California, United States.
1708 – Peter the Great defeats the Swedes at the Battle of Lesnaya.
1779 – American Revolution: Samuel Huntington is elected President of the Continental Congress, succeeding John Jay.
1781 – American forces backed by a French fleet begin the siege of Yorktown, Virginia, during the American Revolutionary War.
1787 – The newly completed United States Constitution is voted on by the U.S. Congress to be sent to the state legislatures for approval.
1791 – France becomes the first European country to emancipate its Jewish population.
1844 – Oscar I of Sweden-Norway is crowned king of Sweden.
1864 – The International Workingmen’s Association is founded in London.
1867 – Toronto becomes the capital of Ontario.
1867 – The United States takes control of Midway Island.
1868 – Battle of Alcolea causes Queen Isabella II of Spain to flee to France.
1889 – The first General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) defines the length of a meter as the distance between two lines on a standard bar of an alloy of platinum with ten percent iridium, measured at the melting point of ice.
1928 – The U.K. Parliament passes the Dangerous Drugs Act outlawing cannabis.
1928 – Sir Alexander Fleming notices a bacteria-killing mould growing in his laboratory, discovering what later became known as penicillin.
1939 – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agree on a division of Poland after their invasion during World War II.
1939 – Warsaw surrenders to Nazi Germany during World War II.
1944 – Soviet Army troops liberate Klooga concentration camp in Klooga, Estonia.
1950 – Indonesia joins the United Nations.
1958 – France ratifies a new Constitution of France; the French Fifth Republic is then formed upon the formal adoption of the new constitution on October 4. Guinea rejects the new constitution, voting for independence instead.
1960 – Mali and Senegal join the United Nations.
1961 – A military coup in Damascus effectively ends the United Arab Republic, the union between Egypt and Syria.
1971 – The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 banning the medicinal use of cannabis.
1973 – The ITT Building in New York City is bombed in protest at ITT’s alleged involvement in the September 11 1973 coup d’etat in Chile.
1975 – The Spaghetti House siege, in which nine people are taken hostage, takes place in London.
1987 – The beginning of the Palestinian civil disobedience uprising, “The First Intifada” against the Israeli occupation.
1994 – The car ferry MS Estonia sinks in Baltic Sea, killing 852 people.
1995 – Bob Denard and a group of mercenaries take the islands of Comoros in a coup.
2000 – Al-Aqsa Intifada: Ariel Sharon visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
2008 – SpaceX launches the first ever private spacecraft, the Falcon 1 into orbit.