Lot 410

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Sir Alexander Fleming ALS: "I am still hoping to be able to do something more in the lab"

A 2pp autograph letter signed by Scottish microbiologist Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), as "Alexander Fleming" in the lower right corner verso. Inscribed on both sides of a single leaf of cream stationery paper. Fleming's longtime Chelsea address, "20A, Danvers Street, / Cheyne Walk. S.W.3." and his telephone number are embossed in black on the letterhead. A single horizontal transmittal fold, else near fine. 4.5" x 7." Accompanied by an Authenticity Guarantee from Andreas Wiemer Historical Autographs (Kelkheim, Germany), number 20191107, signed by the owner and dated January 10, 2021.

Fleming wrote the following letter to Belgian microbiologist André Gratia (1893-1950), in full, with original spelling and usage:

"Sept 30. 46

My dear Gratia

I hope all goes well with you, and your good lady and the family. I am coming to Brussels on Friday morning (Oct 18th) to attend some function which is to inaugurate the Radio Universitaire of this year. I have recorded a number of 10 minute talks in this series which I suppose will be broadcast during the [illegible]. I have taken your name in vain but I hope you will not be disappointed in my reference to you.

They tell me that on this function on the 19th there is going to be a gathering of most of the people connected with the Belgian universities. I hope you will be there so I can have the pleasure of seeing you again. I am off home again on the Sunday morning so there will be no time to come to Liege.

We have just come back from 2 weeks in Rio de Janeiro and next Monday I am having a week in N. Italy so there is not much time for serious work, but I am still hoping to be able to do something more in the lab.

I suppose you are busy as ever. My wife sends her love to you all.

Yours ever,
Alexander Fleming."

Sir Alexander Fleming became principal director of the Inoculation Department at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London in 1946, and he remained in this position until retiring in 1954. The Inoculation Department at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School was renamed the Wright-Fleming Institute in 1947. Fleming also taught bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School between 1920-1948.

Fleming was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945, granted in acknowledgment of a brilliant scientific career. Fleming discovered penicillin, an antibiotic agent naturally derived from fungus, in 1928, and identified the enzyme lysozyme, in 1922. Further penicillin research was conducted throughout the 1930s, delaying its deployment as a routine, life-saving medicine until the 1940s. But once it was widely prescribed, penicillin was effectively used to treat pneumonia, scarlet fever, diphtheria, meningitis, and gonorrhea among other Gram-positive pathogens.

Fellow research scientist André Gratia had come close to discovering naturally occurring fungal antibiotics as early as 1924, and indeed, some consider him to be the true "father of antibiotics." Gratia joined the faculty of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium in 1921, and he undertook research sabbaticals at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York. In 1932, Gratia was offered the chair of the Bacteriology and Parasitology Department at the Université de Liège, and two years later he was offered a full professorship there. Gratia is credited with isolating the first bacteriophage staphylococci, and also for observing the bacteria-destroying effects of colicin, an enzyme toxic to some strains of E. coli.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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