Professor Charles Fletcher CBE FRCP in interview with Max Blythe: Interview 1


Part One: Penicillin Professor Charles Fletcher was the first doctor to administer penicillin to a patient, when he was working as a Nuffield research student in Professor Leslie Witt's department in Oxford in 1941. In this interview he discusses Howard Florey's and Ernst Chain's work on the development of penicillin at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford, following its discovery by Alexander Fleming in 1929. Encouraging results obtained from experiments with mice, and increased availability of the drug through improved extraction techniques, led to the first treatment of patients. He then outlines the cases of three patients suffering from bacterial infections, who were given penicillin, and the dramatic results observed. Next, Professor Fletcher tells of the initial scarcity of the drug, and the attempts of Howard Florey and Norman Heatley to interest pharmaceutical companies in America in the large-scale production of penicillin which led to its wider availability. He reflects on how Fleming receiving most of the publicity and credit for penicillin enabled Florey, who shunned publicity, to concentrate on his research and eventually become president of the Royal Society. In the final part of the interview Professor Fletcher discusses the search for other antibiotics, and the impact that the advent of antibiotic treatment of bacterial infections has had on clinical medicine with, for example, the closure of septic wards.Part Two: Television Medicine At the start of the interview, Professor Fletcher reflects on how he became involved in presenting television programmes on medicine for the BBC when he returned to London from Cardiff in 1952, and earlier programmes including 'Matters of Medicine', 'The Hurt Mind', and 'A Question of Science'.The discussion then moves to his involvement with the pioneering series 'Your Life in Their Hands', in which surgical operations were televised, from 1948 to 1962. Although the series had its critics in the medical profession when it began - the British Medical Journal argued that it was harmful to give patients too much information about disease - it proved immensely popular with the public. Also, the medical profession has come to accept the public discussion of medical issues over time. Next, Professor Fletcher speaks of his involvement in programmes aimed at general practitioners, and reflects on the contribution 'Your Life in Their Hands' has made to informing the public and de-mystifying medicine. The interview concludes with a discussion of the contribution television and video can make to medical education.


Epidemiology, Health education, Pharmacology,

Project reference numbers

vid-075, MSVA_001

DOI (Digital Object Identifier)

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Attached files


Fletcher, Charles
Blythe, Max

Oxford Brookes departments

Learning Resources


Original artefact: 1984
RADAR resource: 2017


Oxford, UK

© Oxford Brookes University; The Royal College of Physicians
Published by Oxford Brookes University
All rights reserved.

Related resources

This RADAR resource is Part of Medical Sciences Video Archive
This RADAR resource is Continued by Interview 2


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