Palisades News Letters: Mistakes Important to Learning Process

Eighty-nine years ago, on September 28, 1928, the Scottish physician and bacteriologist Alexander Fleming made the accidental discovery of penicillin in his lab.

He had left petri dishes containing staphylococci bacteria on his workbench while he was on vacation, and when he returned, he noticed that mold in one of the petri dishe had destroyed all the staph colonies. Further research isolating the mold proved to be the life-saving penicillin. This story is remarkable for many reasons—first, the obvious, life-changing discovery of the antibiotic that literally saves and heals my patients on a daily basis, but second, the idea that a mistake, an unintended consequence could lead to such a miraculous discovery.

It’s healthy and important for kids to realize that mistakes are part of life, they help us learn, and can lead us to even greater achievements.

Apparently, Dr. Fleming wasn’t very neat at all, and his lab was always sort of a mess, so the scattered petri dishes on his workbench was typical.

This is only one of many stories of those individuals who weren’t deterred by their mistakes. Their natural curiosity pushed them further to think outside the box.

The story is important, both for the achievements in science and humanity, but also for the lesson we should teach all of our children—especially in our intensely competitive society—that making mistakes is how we learn, grow and ultimately achieve greatness.

Dr. Alisa A. Bromberg
Palisades Pediatrician

Palisades News welcomes all letters, which may be emailed to Please include a name, address and telephone number so we may reach you. Letters do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Palisades News.

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