HALL OF FAME / inventor profile

Andrew J. Moyer
Born Nov 30 1899 - Died Feb 17 1959

Method for Production of Penicillin
Patent Number(s) 2,442,141; 2,443,989

Inducted 1987

Andrew J. Moyer's discoveries provided the foundation for the industrial production of penicillin.

The potential of using penicillin to treat wounded soldiers was immediately recognized in World War II. However the concept of antibiotics was new, and a practical method for large-scale production was not available. Treatments required from 1-2 million Oxford units of the substance. The urgency of finding a method for mass-producing penicillin led to international cooperation.

In the United States, the task was assigned to Moyer, who found that by culturing the Penicillium mold in a culture broth comprising corn steep liquor and lactose, penicillin yields could be increased many fold. This was the first known use of corn steep liquor for growing microorganisms.

Moyer also discovered that with this improved medium, the fermentation could be conducted with continuous shaking, thereby further enhancing the yields and production rate.

Invention Impact

These discoveries led to industrial penicillin production, which saved thousands of lives during the war.

Moyer's work also provided a model for the development of all other antibiotic fermentations. Corn steep liquor is still used in the commercial fermentation processes for making penicillin and many other antibiotics. Moyer contributed to 10 U.S. patents.

Inventor Bio

Born in Star City, Indiana, Moyer received his A.B. degree from Wabash College in 1922, studied at the University of Wisconsin from 1922 to 1923, and received a M.S. from North Dakota Agricultural College in 1925. In 1929 he was awarded his Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Maryland.

Moyer was employed as a mycologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, from 1929 until 1940 then worked as a microbiologist at the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, until his retirement in 1957.

© 2000-2007 National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc.