Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Distinguished Visitor

Near the end of World War II, the Rochester community was visited by a world-renowned figure, but few people in town knew about the event until it was over.  On June 15, 1945, the Parke-Davis Biological Farm on Parkdale Road was toured by none other than Sir Alexander Fleming - the man who had discovered that penicillium fungi, when properly cultured, would produce a substance with antibiotic properties.  Fleming's 1928 discovery led to the development of the penicillin family of antibiotics just in time for them to be used as a life-saving treatment for soldiers injured during the Normandy invasion in World War II.

The Rochester Clarion told the community that Fleming had visited them in the issue of June 21, 1945. The newspaper said in part:
Few people in Rochester were aware last Friday afternoon, of a most famous visitor in our midst, Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, who spent an hour visiting the Parke Davis Biological farms, east of the village.
. . .
From the people who saw this famous man, last Friday, he impressed them that he didn't consider himself as great. In fact he looked and acted very much like a hard-headed little Scot who is very much perturbed over the great ado being made over him.
A most interesting description was given of him by Malcolm Bingay in his recent column in the Detroit Free Press from which we quote: "By chance I left the farm where my people still are, by chance I got a clerkship in a steamship line, by chance I entered St. Mary's Hospital Medical school, by chance I discovered penicillin. All life is chance."

After concluding his tour of Parkedale, Fleming and his secretary returned to Detroit where they visited Henry Ford Hospital.  Fleming and two other scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their work with penicillin later that year.

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