944: Anne Sheafe Miller

The First Person Saved by Penicillin

Born: 13 October 1908, New York, United States of America

Died: 27 May 1999, Salisbury, Connecticut, United States of America

Anne was suffering from a Streptococcal Infection.

She got the infection in 1942 and was in the hospital for over a month. What today is an illness quickly cleared up with a round of antibiotics was a deadly disease strain that had killed millions when Anne was admitted to the hospital. Luckily for her, she happened to be admitted at just the right moment in history.

For four weeks, Anne was wracked with a fever at times peaking above 106 degrees. Anne had fallen ill after suffering a miscarriage and contracting streptococcal septicemia (also known as blood poisoning).

Penicillin had first been isolated and discovered in 1928, however, Anne was the first patient in the United States for whom there was enough of the antibiotic available to save a life. The sample used to spare her was flown in from a neighboring state and escorted to the hospital by a state trooper. Four of six test patients in the United Kingdom had been saved by the new wonder-drug (according to Yale Medicine, however other sources state Anne was the first overall), but Anne would be the first in the United States to stay alive. The science was so new, doctors weren’t even sure how much was needed to be effective.

Anne was administered five and a half grams of the Penicillin. The first treatment began at 3:30 PM on Saturday, and by Monday she was alert, her fever had dropped, and she was able to eat four square meals for the first time in days.

Her hospital chart is now in the Smithsonian. Because of Anne’s case, thousands of civilians and servicemen’s lives were saved during the course of World War II thanks to penicillin.

Anne graduated from Columbia Presbyterian School of Nursing in 1931. Her husband was on the faculty for Yale University and also served as headmaster of a school. At the time of her death she was survived by three sons.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Located In My Personal Library:

Here is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll