Penicillin mould from Howard Florey’s lab

Made by Florey, Howard Walter in Oxford, England, 1944.

This fungus changed the world. It saved millions of lives and completely transformed our expectations around life and death and was an international innovation with major contributions from Australians. The sludge it exudes is lethal to a huge range of bacteria, and cures many infectious diseases. The world’s first widely available antibiotic, Penicillin, was made from this sludge. It quickly defeated major bacterial diseases and ushered in the antibiotic age.

These samples of ‘Penicillium not...


(-1:2) Preserved specimens of 'Penicillium notatum', the mould that makes penicillin, at different stages of growth. These were given to Dr Rohan de Royal Barondes of the United States Medical Corps on a visit to Howard W. Florey's laboratories in Oxford in 1944. Each of the two specimens is in a sealed glass Petri dish, the lid of one being inscribed in black ink 'P.notatum', the lid of the other being inscribed in white ink 'P.notatum/ 4 days'. The Petri dishes had been arranged in a cardboard mount, apparently by Barondes, along with a third specimen. The third specimen was, however, sent by the vendor to the United States National Museum of Health.

(-3:5) The remains of the cardboard mount consisting of three cardboard labels written in ink, apparently in Barondes' hand. The wording on the labels is 'After 24 hours', '4 days growth, and 'Penicillium Notatum - Original Mold [sic] from Which Professor Fleming obtained the first Penicillin.1929.'


Dr Royal de Rohan Barondes of the United States Army Medical Corps appears to have struck up a correspondence with Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming in the 1940s. He subsequently visited Florey's team in Oxford in 1944. Correspondence amongst Barondes' effects indicates that the Penicillium mould specimens were given to him on his visit to Oxford in 1944. Perhaps it was at this time that Florey gave him an autographed copy of a report on treatment of war wounds (object number 99/30/2).

Some years after Barondes' death in 1962, his effects were organised and distributed by his son, Earl de R. Barondes. During his life Barondes had told his son that the Penicillium specimens had been given to him by 'Professor Florey'. Two sets of material were sold to the Powerhouse Museum, the first set being the items in this acquisition. Originally there were three specimens of the preserved mould. The three Petri dishes had been arranged in a cardboard mount by Barondes Snr, with labels in his handwriting. However, only two of the specimens came to the Powerhouse. A third specimen went to the United States National Museum of Health and Armed Forces Museum of the Institute of Pathology.
Florey, Howard Walter 1944


Purchased 1999
12 April, 1999

Cite this Object

Penicillin mould from Howard Florey's lab 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 23 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Penicillin mould from Howard Florey's lab |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=23 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Icons: From the MAAS Collection at the Powerhouse Museum.
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