Biography of Howard Florey 

Howard Florey was born on the 24th of the 9th 1898 in Adelaide, Australia but

his Dad was from England. Howard was excellent at school work and was

superb at sport. While he was at school he was inspired by his high school

chemistry teacher to study medicine at the University of Adelaide. At the

University of Adelaide he met Ethel, a fellow medical student.

In 1921 he won the South Australian Rhodes Scholarship, he won it for his great

leadership and determination in academia and sport. Ethel moved to England in

1926 to marry him, they had an unhappy marriage partly due to poor health and

hearing and his intolerance.

During the 1930s Florey gathered a group of scientists at the Oxford University

in Britain, his team began a careful study of the properties of anti-bacterial

substances the are put together by mould. One of the members of the team,

Ernst Chain, found an article about Alexander Fleming’s work while flicking

through a medical and this prompted them to begin looking at penicillin.

Individually, some of the members of the group concentrated on areas which

they had the most knowledge about, but they met together and exchanged

ideas. Chain worked on purifying penicillin with Edward Abraham. Norman

Heatley improvised methods for extracting penicillin using ether and bedpans,

A.D. Garder and Jena Orr-Ewing studied how penicillin reacted with other


On Saturday 25th of May 1940 Florey’s team tested penicillin on eight mice

which were injected with a lethal dose of the streptococci bacteria, four of

them were injected with penicillin as well. The next day the four mice that

weren’t injected with penicillin died. The first patient to used penicillin had

been scratched with a rose thorn and his whole face was swollen in 1941. But

sadly he died because the team didn’t use enough. In 1966 Ethel died, the year

after Howard got married again Margaret Jennings. Margaret Jennings was an

important member of the penicillin team. In 1968 Howard died of a heart attack

at the age of 69.


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