Fleming Painted With Bacteria

The Smithsonian has an interesting article on Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin, revealing how the scientist used his bacterial cultures to paint works of art. Fleming used different bacterial strains to create a range of colours, timing his innoculations so that the different species would mature at the same time.

i-eca4e09ee8675eac7872d69706ed3ef4-Guardsman-germ-painting-microbial-art-3.jpg

From the OP:

It is not clear why Fleming started painting microbes; perhaps he picked up a brush one day and noticed that it felt like the loop he used for his bacteria. Or maybe it was due to the promiscuous sexual predilections of artists. Fleming worked at St. Mary's hospital in London, where he treated syphilis cases. Many of his patients were painters, and those painters sometimes gave Fleming paintings and perhaps even lessons in return for treatment. Fleming's palette grew richer with time as he found bacteria with the colors he needed. He found joy in discovering a strange new strain of bacteria, in the way that a field biologist might feel the same in happening upon some new and wondrous bird. He collected unusual life forms in the hope that one of them might someday prove useful.

More like this

A claim that scientists need to quit making: I've written about these types of claims before. The first one--a claim that antimicrobial peptides were essentially "resistance proof," was proven to be embarrassingly wrong in a laboratory test. Resistance not only evolved, but it evolved…
My excellent brother-in-law Peter Köhler is an artist of the well-educated, hip, productive and non-starving kind. He teaches and exhibits his work internationally, and now he's got something coming up at a gallery on Broadway in New York. VERUS PAINTERS Works by John Aslanidis, Susann Brännström…
Eleven years ago, two scientists made a bet. One scientist wagered that a new type of antimicrobial agent, called antimicrobial peptides, would not elicit resistance from bacterial populations which were treated with the drugs. Antimicrobial peptides are short proteins (typically 15-50 amino acids…
Here is an example of perfect science blogging. It starts seemingly innocuously, with a quiz: Monday's Molecule #30, where you are supposed to figure out what the compound is. Then, after a couple of days, there is a post that you may not even realize at first is related to the first one: Bacteria…