Apparatus used in experimental work with penicillin, United Kingdom, 1939-1949

1939-1949 in United Kingdom
Glaxo Laboratories Limited

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Set of apparatus used in experimental work with penicillin, comprising enamel dish and metal device to contain liquid, cellophane cover, wire to support cellophane, by Glaxo Laboratories Limited, England, 1939-1949

Although the effects of penicillin on bacteria were observed in 1928 by the British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), the drug was not successfully made in any quantity or isolated from the juice exuded by the penicillium mould until the early 1940s. The pioneering work on making and separating penicillin, and finding its huge medical potential was conducted in Oxford. This apparatus was used in some of the very earliest experimental work there. It was used to grow the mould which produces penicillin, on the surface of a shallow nutrient soup. The sterilisable containers were plugged with cotton wool. This stopped air bringing in common microbes which would contaminate the growing process. They were once biscuit tins and butter containers purchased from an Oxfordshire greengrocer. Drawing on the experience with this apparatus, specially designed ceramic vessels were soon developed. This apparatus was donated by Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford.


Object Number:
cellophane, enamel, glass and metal
laboratory apparatus
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • scientific equipment
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology

Cite this page


We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.

Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero

Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data


Download catalogue entry as json

View manifest in IIIF viewer

Add to Animal Crossing Art Generator

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.