Vessel for growing mould, used in Oxford, England, 1942

1940-1944 in England

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Penicillin surface fermentation vessel.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Penicillin surface fermentation vessel, European, 1940-44, in porcelain.

Specially designed for harvesting penicillin, this vessel enabled the soupy product to be poured out easily from beneath the felt-like Penicillium mould. The mould requires air to grow and this was the most sophisticated vessel in use until the development of deep stirred tanks into which air was bubbled under pressure. Penicillin became a medicine in the early 1940s, during the Second World War, thanks to an Oxford University team led by Howard Florey (1898-1968). The Oxford scientists managed to separate and purify very small quantities of penicillin and show its successful use as an antibiotic.

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Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

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Object Number:
fermentation vessel
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
ICI Ltd. (Pharmaceuticals Division)

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