Harold Thomas Swan Papers

Scope and Content

Papers on the history of the clinical use of penicillin, 1945-1996, with particular reference to its early use in Sheffield, and to the reputation of Sir Alexander Fleming, assembled by Dr Harold T. Swan

Administrative / Biographical History

The collection consists of correspondence and other documents assembled by Harold Thomas Swan, MD, FRCP, FRCPath, Honorary Lecturer in Medical History, University of Sheffield, and formerly Consultant in Haematology, United Sheffield Hospitals, and relates principally to the history of two medical scientists: Sir Alexander Fleming, who published his discovery of penicillin in 1929 but who has been subsequently criticised for an apparent failure to pursue its clinical potential, criticism repeated in a BBC Horizon programme in 1989; and Dr Cecil George Paine, a junior Clinical Pathologist at the Royal Infirmary, Sheffield in 1929-30, for whose clinical work in the successful treatment of infections by penicillin there exists the earliest known documentation of such treatment. The material is mainly in the form of correspondence between Dr Swan and individuals who worked with or knew Fleming and / or Paine.

Many of the documents in the Fleming Material (Section 185/3 in the list) are copies, the originals of which are held in the British Library Department of Manuscripts.

Further information on specific areas of the documentation is given in the finding aid.


By category

Access Information

Available to all researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

Donated in March 1997


Description prepared by Lawrence Aspden

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright: According to document. Any request for permission to copy or quote from any file, and access to certain files, requires the permission of Dr Swan

Additional Information

The originals of many of the documents in the Fleming Material (Section 185/3) are held in the British Library Department of Manuscripts, to whom application to make quotations should be made.