Paddington’s connection to modern medicine


There’s so much to see and do in London that the problem isn’t in filling your days but in deciding what you do and don’t have time to see! However, if you’re planning your stay in Paddington you might not even know you’re sleeping by the site of one of the most important medical discoveries in human history. London has always been home to scientists and doctors, and is famous all over the world for discoveries made in the capital city, but this is possibly the most important one of all.

Just a short distance away from Park Grand London Paddington is St. Mary’s hospital. You might know it as the place where the Duchess of Cambridge had Prince George and Princess Charlotte, the third and fourth in line to the throne, or even where Elvis Costello was born in 1954. But it’s also the place where Scottish chemist Alexander Fleming made a mistake that’s saved millions of lives.

alexander fleming laboratory museum

The year was 1928. Alexander Fleming had been away from his laboratory at St. Mary’s in Paddington during August for a holiday with his family. Maybe he was excited about his trip, or maybe he was getting a bit lazy, but he hadn’t checked all his petri dishes carefully enough. His plan had been to swab them with bacteria, and then after his holiday he could see which had grown and start experiments. Except, when he returned, one dish had some mould growing in it.

Instead of throwing it away, as most of us would do if we found mould growing on our work after a holiday, he famously remarked “That’s funny,” to his lab assistant. He’d noticed that the bacteria around the mould had been destroyed, but bacteria further away seemed unaffected. This was the beginning of penicillin. Fleming began tests right away.

By 1944, it was in use as a medicine for Allied troops in World War II, and by 1945 it was mass produced for the rest of the world. Penicillin has cured millions of bacterial infections since it was discovered, and will go on to save many more. Rightly, Fleming won the Nobel Prize and was knighted for his work.

Alexander Fleming’s laboratory was famously untidy, and has now been restored to its original state of disorganisation so people can see what it was like when the scientist accidentally found one of the most important drugs in the world. The museum is full of original 1920s equipment and notes, as well as an exhibition so you can discover more about Fleming’s life, as well as his work before he discovered penicillin.

Don’t miss out on visiting this piece of history when you stay at Park Grand London Paddington.

Step into a time machine to discover how one of the most important scientists of the 20th century worked, and afterwards seek out St. James’ church to find the beautiful stained glass window celebrating Fleming’s discovery, picturing him in a white lab coat examining the petri dish that started it all.