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ngel Rodrguez Montalvn

Accidental discoveries in medicine

1. Penicillin (1928): Alexander Fleming

Contribution: Provides effective treatment for bacterial infections and inaugurated the era of antibiotics.

The discovery of the antibiotic properties of penicillin is the subject of sometimes disputed medical
mythology, a story that unites a chain of random incidents or coincidental coincidences, like the plot of an
unlikely novel.

After a two-week vacation, Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) observed that Staphylococcus aureus had
developed on a petri dish that had remained at room temperature, except in areas that had been
contaminated, completely by chance, by spores of Penicillium present in the air. In subsequent experiments,
Fleming noted that Penicillium notatum not only controlled bacterial proliferation, but also killed bacteria,
which did not occur with other Penicillium species.

Once their findings were published, Fleming put them aside. Subsequent research by Ernst Chain and
Howard Florey was necessary to achieve the full potential of penicillin. All three shared the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine in 1945 "for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious
diseases." Penicillin entered large-scale pharmaceutical production in the 1940s.

2. The "X-rays" (1895): Wilhelm Roentgen

Contribution: Established new paradigms in diagnosis and treatment, creating at the same time new research
disciplines and revolutionizing physics and medicine.

"I did not think, I investigated." - Wilhelm Roentgen

In this famous section of scientific knowledge, the physicist Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923) noticed a
mysterious green glow when experimenting with cathode rays in a vacuum tube in the presence of a
rudimentary photosensitive plate. Roentgen then observed the penetrating properties of "X-rays", a
previously unknown type of radiation. The well-known photograph that illustrates his article reveals the
bones of his wife's hand.

The discovery of Roentgen had far-reaching consequences for several disciplines and made him a creditor
in 1901 of the Nobel Prize in Physics. For the first time in history, it was possible to visualize the interior
of the body without the need for a surgical procedure.

Shortly after, the harmful effects of exposure to "X-rays" were discovered.

3. Pacemaker, Wilson Greatbatch,

The inventor who has saved more lives in the last 50 years was not a doctor, but an engineer. Born in
Buffalo (New York) in 1919, Wilson Greatbatch never thought about dedicating himself to health. All his
career was directed to electricity, branch of which he was an engineer. But once again a chance put within
his reach a discovery that has revolutionized cardiology. So much so, that in 1983 the National Society of
Professional Engineers considered it one of the discoveries of the century.

As he himself recounted in his book The Making of the pacemaker, Greatbatch was working on a system
to record the heartbeat. But an error in choosing a component produced a new phenomenon: a rhythmic
emission of electrical impulses. The genius of Greatbatch was to realize that this pattern could be identified
with that of a heart. He added two and two and, after remembering the talks with some doctors in which
they explained that deep down the heart is an engine that was powered by electricity, he got down to work
until he got the first implantable pacemaker. This was successfully tested on dogs in 1958. It was patented
in 1962.
ngel Rodrguez Montalvn

History: Accidental discoveries in medicine

1. Penicillin (1928): Alexander Fleming

After a two-week vacation, Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) observed that Staphylococcus aureus
had developed on a petri dish that had remained at room temperature, except in areas that had
been contaminated, completely by chance, by spores of Penicillium present in the air. In
subsequent experiments, Fleming noted that Penicillium notatum not only controlled bacterial
proliferation, but also killed bacteria, which did not occur with other Penicillium species.

2. The "X-rays" (1895): Wilhelm Roentgen

The physicist Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923) noticed a mysterious green glow when
experimenting with cathode rays in a vacuum tube in the presence of a rudimentary photosensitive
plate. Roentgen then observed the penetrating properties of "X-rays", a previously unknown type
of radiation. The well-known photograph that illustrates his article reveals the bones of his wife's
hand.

3. Pacemaker, Wilson Greatbatch,

Greatbatch was working on a system to record the heartbeat. But an error in choosing a component
produced a new phenomenon: a rhythmic emission of electrical impulses. The genius of
Greatbatch was to realize that this pattern could be identified with that of a heart. He added two
and two and, after remembering the talks with some doctors in which they explained that deep
down the heart is an engine that was powered by electricity, he got down to work until he got the
first implantable pacemaker. This was successfully tested on dogs in 1958. It was patented in
1962.