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The atomic structure of Penicillin-G
Certain molds naturally produce Penicilin.

Penicillin is a common antibiotic, used to treat bacterial infections. Penicillin was discovered by Scottish scientist Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928, but it was not mass-produced until the 1940s.[1] The antibiotic is naturally produced by fungi of the genus Penicillium. There is now a whole group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium: penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V.

Penicillin is sometimes used to treat syphilis, tonsillitis, meningitis, and pneumonia as well as other diseases. It was first used widely during World War II.

Penicillin was discovered when Fleming noticed a mould that was stopping bacteria from growing in a petri dish. Australian scientist Howard Walter Florey made the penicillin mould into a medicine. Together with another scientist Ernest Boris Chain, Fleming and Florey were given the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945.

Some people are allergic to penicillin. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, or rash. Rarely, patients who are allergic to penicillin get a fever, vomit, or have serious skin irritation. Because it is such a popular antibiotic, penicillin is the most common cause of serious allergic reactions to a drug. They are now used regularly in hospitals.

Total synthesis

Chemist John C. Sheehan at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did the first chemical synthesis of penicillin in 1957.[2][3][4]


  1. Wainwright M. & Swan H.T. 1986. C.G. Paine and the earliest surviving clinical records of penicillin therapy. Medical History 30 (1): 42–56. [1]
  2. Sheehan, John C. 1957; Henery-Logan, Kenneth R.. "The total synthesis of Penicillin V". Journal of the American Chemical Society 79 (5): 1262–1263. doi:10.1021/ja01562a063 .
  3. Sheehan, John C. 1959; Henery-Logan, Kenneth R.. "The total synthesis of Penicillin V". Journal of the American Chemical Society 81 (12): 3089–3094. doi:10.1021/ja01521a044 .
  4. Corey E.J. & John D. Roberts 2013. "Biographical memoirs: John Clark Sheehan". The National Academy Press.