Lloyd Conover, who has died aged 93, created the antibiotic tetracycline in 1952, providing the medical establishment with a new line of defence against virulent and potentially deadly infections.
Ever since Alexander Fleming had discovered penicillin in 1928, scientists had been working hard to find new antibiotics. Chlortetracycline, purified from a bacterium found in soil, was rushed into production in 1948, while penicillin derived from overripe melon proved effective in treating thousands of soldiers during the Second World War.
As the cost of penicillin dropped sharply, the pharmaceutical company Charles Pfizer & Co recruited pilots, explorers and ordinary citizens to send in soil samples from all over the world for testing. Conover, meanwhile, was more interested in the molecular structure of the drugs already to hand. Under carefully controlled conditions, he stripped chlortetracycline...
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