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Norman G. Heatley

Norman G. HeatleyAKA Norman George Heatley

Born: 10-Jan-1911
Birthplace: Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
Died: 5-Jan-2004
Location of death: Oxford, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Isolated penicillin

Norman G. Heatley was part of the team of scientists that developed purification and extraction techniques to allow penicillin to be produced in sufficient quantities for clinical testing. He worked under Howard Florey and alongside Ernst B. Chain to separate penicillin, discovered a decade earlier by Alexander Fleming, from the myriad impurities that engulf it in its moldy liquid environment.

Prior to the production of penicillin, medicine had no reliable way to aid the body's defenses, so infections deemed common or even minor today were frequently fatal. Heatley played a key role in the isolation of the drug, concocting a new assay method to measure the activity of penicillin precisely, and finding conditions under which penicillin was more stable. He suggested, developed and applied a multi-stage technique to isolate and purify penicillin.

At Oxford on 25 May 1940, Heatley observed as four mice exposed to Streptomyces pyogenes but injected with penicillin developed no symptoms of illness, while four control mice, also exposed to the infection but not injected with the drug, grew sick and died overnight. In his notes the following morning, he summed up the history-making experiment by writing, "It really looks as if penicillin may be of practical importance".

The drug was estimated to have saved some 80,000,000 lives by the turn of the 21st Century, and Chain, Fleming, and Florey but not Heatley shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1944.

Father: (veterinarian)
Wife: Mercy Bing (m. 1944, until his death)
Son: Jonathan
Son: Christopher
Daughter: Rose
Daughter: Tamsin

    High School: Tonbridge School, Tonbridge, UK (1929)
    University: BS Biology, St John's College, Cambridge University (1933)
    University: PhD Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1936)
    Scholar: Scientific Staff, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford University (1936-76)
    Fellow: Nuffield Research Fellow, Lincoln College, Oxford University (1948-78)

    US Agriculture Department Consultant (1942-45)
    Officer of the British Empire 1978


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