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June 6, 1986

Drug Discovery: The Evolution of Modern Medicines

Author Affiliations

University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine

JAMA. 1986;255(21):3021-3022. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370210189034

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On June 6, 1944, the Normandy invasion commenced with enough penicillin on hand to satisfy all military requirements. It was only three years earlier, on Feb 12, 1941, that the first human clinical trial of penicillin had been conducted. This scientific and production miracle was mostly due to three men, Alexander Fleming, Ernst Chain, and Howard Florey, the latter turning his department at Oxford into a pencillin factory even before he had the clinical evidence to justify it.

Gerhard Domagk, the 1939 Nobel laureate in medicine for his work on the development of sulfonamides and antitubercular drugs, was detained by the Gestapo after he was notified of the honor. Hitler would not allow him to accept the prize because of pique concerning the recipient of the peace prize. Although Domagk finally received the medal in Stockholm after the war, the money had reverted to the Nobel foundation.

In 1898, Heinrich Dresser