Although penicillin was discovered in the late 19th century, its use wasn't accepted until the 1940s, when it was produced as the first true antibiotic. On this date in 1939, Howard Florey, an Australian pathologist, applied to the Rockefeller Foundation to study penicillin and other bacteria. Florey, later working with biochemist Ernst Chain, found it difficult to make large quantities of penicillin in his lab. Using his Rockefeller connections, Florey was able to convince Merck, Squibb and Pfizer in the 1940s to produce the antibiotic in large quantities. In 1944, the drug companies produced enough penicillin to treat war casualties and severe infections. The following year, Florey, Chain and an early proponent of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, were awarded a Nobel Prize for their efforts.
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