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Zones of inhibition? The transfer of information relating to penicillin in Europe during World War II. [Chapter 5 Zones of Inhibition? The Transfer of Information Relating to Penicillin in Europe during World War II].

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journal contribution
posted on 24.09.2009, 11:48 authored by Gilbert Shama
Alexander Fleming published his first description of penicillin in 1929, but the journal articles that were to propel penicillin from its relative obscurity were those of Howard Florey and his co-workers at Oxford University. These were published in The Lancet in the early years of World War II and although wartime conditions restricted the flow of information on penicillin throughout Europe, they never succeeded in shutting it off altogether. In Germany an information-gathering initiative was established in the early phases of the war to systematically copy and distribute British and American scientific articles. A similar, though less well resourced, operation was permitted to function in Occupied France. Both of these operations were to yield up information on penicillin to their respective scientists. However, workers in other countries of occupied Europe fared less well; there was a dearth of information on penicillin in Holland but despite this, activity to produce the antibiotic still took place. Central to the production of penicillin at this time was access to a strain of Fleming’s strain of Penicillium notatum, and an attempt to explain how this particular strain found its way to various European laboratories is given here.



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SHAMA, G., 2009. Zones of inhibition? The transfer of information relating to penicillin in Europe during World War II. IN: Laskin, Allen I. (ed). Advances in Applied Microbiology, Vol 69, Chapter 5, pp. 133-58


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This article was published as Chapter 5 in Advances in Applied Microbiology [© Elsevier]. The definitive version is available at