Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

12. Penicillin


Discovered by Alexander Fleming, the son of an Ayrshire farmer, in 1928, penicillin broke new ground because, by the time it was being mass-produced in the 1940s, it was among the first drugs to be truly effective against many serious diseases. Fleming wasn’t Britain’s only medical pioneer. In the late 1950s, fellow Scotsman Sir James Black developed the beta blocker Propanolol, which is credited with saving the lives of millions of heart-disease sufferers, as well as Cimetidine, the first modern ulcer drug, and Rosalind Franklin made great strides in the study of DNA. In 1972, Sir Godfrey Hounsfield invented the CAT scanner and, in 1978, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards carried out the first successful IVF procedure.

‘Thanks to penicillin he will come home!’
(Second World War poster)

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