Missed in History: Selman Waksman and Albert Schatz

BY Tracy V. Wilson / POSTED July 17, 2013
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Dr. Selman Waksman in a lab at Rutgers, Oct. 23, 1952. (© Bettmann/CORBIS) Dr. Selman Waksman in a lab at Rutgers, Oct. 23, 1952. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)

This episode seemed pretty straightforward when I started researching it. Dr. Selman Waksman, born in what is now Ukraine, emigrated from there to the United States in 1910. He started college at Rutgers, eventually got a PhD in biochemistry, became a U.S. citizen, and spearheaded the discovery of a number of antibiotics. One of these was streptomycin – a groundbreaking drug and the first real treatment for tuberculosis – and he won a Nobel Prize for his work.

One of Dr. Waksman’s graduate students, Albert Schatz, was the one who isolated the organism that produces streptomycin. This on its own isn’t surprising; grad students are often at the forefront of the actual experimental work involved in new discoveries. But Dr. Schatz’s account of the discovery is quite different form Dr. Waksman’s.

Listener mail is from Doug on our Robin Hood episode. Here’s his example of Green Man imagery.

Episode link: Selman Waksman and the Streptomycin Controversy

For further reading: How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?

My research:

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