Alexander Fleming was a Bacteriologist who was infamous for his poor sterile technique. In Microbiology/Bacteriology sterile technique is everything. Don’t cough, don’t sneeze, don’t even breathe on that petri dish! If you do, when you pull the dish out of the incubator 24 hours from now you will have a bacterial menudo on the agar. Is that the germ I’m trying to isolate for pure culture, or is that what the inside of my mouth really looks like under a microscope? These are the questions we must ask ourselves if we have poor sterile technique.
However, the world at large is indebted to Alexander Fleming for his lack of sterility because it led to the creation of penicillin. Fleming was conducting an experiment involving bacteria but as chance would have it, the petri dish containing the experiment was contaminated with mold. He noticed strangely that bacteria that was inoculated on the dish was not present, but the mold on the dish was present. Certainly this was a major discovery. There was something inside of this mold, something that the mold created that killed bacteria!
Twenty years after Fleming discovered the bactericide called “penicillin,” Andrew J. Moyer received a patent for it. http://www.google.com/patents/US2442141. Moyer found a way to produce penicillin on a large scale.
Consider this, mold is fungus; it is a living thing, and it occurs freely in nature just as any bacterium would. Additionally, the mold that “produced” penicillin is “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.” Funk Bros. Seed Co. Kalo Inoculant Co.
The biggest question was whether discovering that mold produces a bactericide is an application of the law of nature, and thus an invention, or whether it is a discovery of an unknown phenomenon of nature, and thus not an invention according to the Court?
Ironically, the Funk Bros. Seed Co. case came out the same year penicillin was patented. Coincidence? Of course.