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Penicillin fermentation vessel, England, 1940-1945

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Credit: Penicillin fermentation vessel, England, 1940-1945. Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Thousands of glass fermentation vessels like this one were used in Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKline) laboratories to produce penicillin. The penicillium mould was grown on the surface of a liquid filled with all the nutrients it needed. This approach was superseded by the method of growing the mould within large industrial fermenters. The antibiotic was first used in the early 1940s and saved the lives of many soldiers during the Second World War.

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