Fleming was just fooling around

Describing the bacterial paintings Alexander Fleming produced while playing around with microbes, the authors of the book Sparks of Genius, Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein, suggest that the appearance of a new color, a bluish green mold, held no meaning at first. Fleming was just fooling around. But as a tool for discovery, the activity was hardly pointless. Here, Root-Bernstein describe "play" as the "deliberate complication or elaboration of activity:"

No one knew what this mold meant at first, not even Fleming, because play has no... purpose outside of itself. Play is simply for the fun of it, for the enjoyment of doing and making without responsibility. There is no success or failure in play, no holding to account, no mandatory achievement. Play breaks the rules of serious activity and establishes its own. It involves what anthropologist Stephen Miller has called "galumphing' - awkward, exaggerated, even subversive action and the deliberate complication or elaboration of activity for its own sake whether this involves body movements, hand-held objects, symbolically expressed ideas, golf, or microbes. However, to say that play has no inherent goal does not mean that its results cannot afterward be put to good purposes beyond motivating enjoyment.

In part because of his desire to collect more colored bacteria for his paintings - in his play - Fleming had discovered Penicillium notatum.

Have a fun weekend.

Wayne