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Still, Sir Alexander Fleming could not quite believe his luck. "It would be strange indeed," he said, "if the first one described remained the best." But it has so remained: penicillin is the undoubted queen of the antibiotics. It alone would mark an epoch in medicine. In Western countries it has drastically altered the picture of both life and death. Fleming himself is a case in point: in 1953, with penicillin's aid he made a quick recovery from pneumonia. Now, untold millions of all ages who formerly would have died of this or other infectious diseases are spared, and eventually fall victim to disorders inseparable from old age.
Last week, technically retired from his laboratory but still on the trail as a microbe hunter, Sir Alexander Fleming, 73, fell victim to such a disorder, died of a heart attack.