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Medicine Through Time – Antibiotics, 1920-2000

6. The Impact of Antibiotics

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In this module, we look at the impact of antibiotics from their discovery by Fleming in 1928 to their use in medicine today. From this we can see three key points: (i) antibiotics made a big difference to life expectancy and experience; (ii) penicillin discovery was important to how people thought about science, medicine and Britain as a country; and (iii) the early abuse of antibiotics has led to widespread resistance.


In this course, Dr Robert Bud (Science Museum, London) examines the history of antibiotics. We take a look at what medicine and medicines were like before the discovery of antibiotics. We then look at the discovery of penicillin and how it was mass produced in the 1940s. We then look at the growth in the number of other antibiotics and how this went hand in hand with the development of the pharmaceutical industry. In the penultimate module, we take a closer look at antibiotic resistance and how this affects the world today. In the concluding module, we examine the impact of antibiotics on medicine, the pharmaceutical industry and public attitudes towards germs and illness.


Dr. Robert Bud is Emeritus Keeper at The Science Museum in London. He has written widely on the history of science, with a particular in interest in the history of antibiotics. His book, Penicillin: Triumph and Tragedy, was published by Oxford University Press in 2007.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Bud, R. (2021, September 22). Medicine Through Time – Antibiotics, 1920-2000 - The Impact of Antibiotics [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bud, Robert. "Medicine Through Time – Antibiotics, 1920-2000 – The Impact of Antibiotics." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Sep 2021,

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