Penicillin poster from World War II
The first priority in the development of penicillin was the treatment of the armed forces.

Penicillin helped the United States win World War II, and it was researched and developed at Bushnell General Military Hospital. In World War I, infections had killed more soldiers than bullets did. Sulfa drugs, discovered in the 1930s, were the first effective antibiotics, but many infections resisted the treatment. Furthermore, sulfa drugs had many debilitating side effects. The outbreak of World War II increased the urgency to find new ways of fighting infections. The US Army chose Bushnell Hospital to try the effectiveness of penicillin, a relatively new drug developed from mold. They tested it on “hopeless cases”—those whom doctors declared were going to die from their infections. Nearly all the men treated with penicillin lived.

Sources for this Page

Kevin Brown, Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution (Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2005).
John S. Mailer, Jr. and Barbara Mason, “Penicillin: Medicine’s Wartime Wonder Drug and Its Production at Peoria, Illinois,” Illinois Periodicals Online, http://www.lib.niu.edu/2001/iht810139.html.
Frank B. Queen, “History of Penicillin Bushnell General Hospital,” Otis Historical Archives, OHA 283: Queen Collection, Series 003, Item 00007.
“U of U Labs Produce Small Quantities of Wonder Drug,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 19, 1943, available at https://digitalnewspapers.org/.