Discovery of Penicillin
Seeking and Blundering

Penicillin Photo: © Alan Rockefeller (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This episode of the FEHLER podcast is an exploration of mistakes in science and their connection to art. Listen for more!

Katie Davis

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In this episode of the FEHLER podcast, producer Katie Davis starts off with a well-known mistake in science: how microbiologist Alexander Fleming left dirty petri dishes in his lab while he was on vacation in 1928. When he returned, mold had destroyed a bacteria sample of staphylococcus – that mold came to be known as penicillin. This was the first antibiotic, a game changer during World War II. 

Additionally, scientist Phil Plait – known as The Bad Astronomer, a self-proclaimed “evangelist for mistakes” – tells the story of how two astronomers had to admit to a huge mistake they made and how inspiring he found it that they owned up to their mistake instead of brushing it off. And artist Susan Byrnes delves into the idea of mistakes in art – which surprisingly has a lot in common with Alexander Fleming’s petri dish accident. 

Listen to this episode of the FEHLER podcast for all of these stories!

With Music by David Shulman


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