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Glass bottle of penicillin powder, London, England, 1943

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A brown label that once accompanied this bottle of penicillin powder read “Penicillin 1943 from a batch brewed by Kemball Bishop & Co brought to Oxford by truck and extracted in the plant”. Once penicillin’s potential was discovered, vast amounts were needed. Kemball Bishop & Co was one of the very first manufacturers of the drug. It carried out the first stage of production, manufacturing a weak impure solution which was then purified at Oxford University. This process produced some of the first penicillin to be tested for its clinical effects. The brown-yellow colour is due to impurities in the sample.

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    Glossary: penicillin

    The first antibiotic drug to treat infections which is made from the mould penicillium. Its discovery is attributed to Alexander Fleming in 1928.

    Glossary: bottle

    Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations

    Glossary: antibiotic

    A substance that is used to treat infections.