Newbury plaque honoring the first man to be treated with penicillin
Newbury City Council will unveil a new blue plaque later this month in honor of a local policeman who was the first person in the world to be treated with injected penicillin.
Constable Albert Alexander served with the Berkshire Police in Newbury between 1926 and 1929.
He was married at St Mary’s Church in Speenhamland and is buried alongside his wife, Edith Mary Deacon, in Newtown Cemetery.
However, he was not originally a local man, having been born in Woodley.
Constable Alexander was stationed in Southampton during the Blitz and was hospitalized with blood poisoning after an injury.
The nature of his injury is uncertain.
While it was traditionally believed that the officer was cut by a rose thorn on his face, evidence has since come to light that Constable Alexander was the victim of an air raid.
Doctors arranged for his transfer to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, where it was decided to treat him with a revolutionary new antibiotic.
Penicillin had been discovered a decade earlier by Sir Alexander Fleming, who had already administered penicillin to a number of patients by mouth.
However, Constable Alexander was the first person to be injected with an antibiotic.
Penicillin was not a widely available drug until after World War II and was difficult to produce in effective amounts.
As a result of his treatment, the officer’s condition temporarily improved.
Unfortunately, production limits linked to the war meant that doctors eventually ran out of penicillin.
Constable Alexander relapsed and died on March 15, 1941.
The plaque bearing his name will be located at Carnarvon Place, Andover Road, Newbury.
An unveiling ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. on May 25 and will be led by Newbury Mayor Billy Drummond.
Agent Alexander’s daughter, Sheila LeBlanc, married an American serviceman and her granddaughter, Linda Williason, lives in California.
Upon hearing the new plaque, Ms. Williason sent a thank you message from across the Atlantic.
She said: “My mom is more than happy to hear about this.
“Thank you everyone for everything you do to honor my grandfather.
“Everything is really appreciated.”
Nigel Foot (Lib Dems, West Fields), vice chair of the heritage task force, said: “City Council is very grateful to the friends at Newtown Road Cemetery who brought Albert’s story to the attention of our heritage working group and have the basic information to complete it.
“We also thank Sovereign Housing for accepting the erection of the plaque, and the Newbury Society for their generous donation of £ 100 to cover the costs.”