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.
Episode link: Selman Waksman and the Streptomycin Controversy
For further reading: How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?
- “actinomycete.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 01 Jul. 2013. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/4401/actinomycete
- “Selman A. Waksman – Biographical”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 1 Jul 2013. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1952/waksman-bio.html
- Chemical Heritage Foundation. “Selman Abraham Waksman.” http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/themes/pharmaceuticals/preventing-and-treating-infectious-diseases/waksman.aspx
- Ginsberg, Judah. “Selman Waksman and Antibiotics.” American Chemical Society. May 24, 2005. http://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/selmanwaksman/selman-waksman-and-antibiotics-historical-resource.pdf
- Hotchkiss, Rollin D. “Selman Abraham Waksman.” National Academy of Sciences. http://www.nap.edu/readingroom.php?book=biomems&page=swaksman.html
- Kingston, William. “Streptomycin, Schatz v. Waksman, and the Balance of Credit for Discovery.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. Volume 59, Number 3, July 2004. http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_medicine_and_allied_sciences/v059/59.3kingston.html
- Pringle, peter. “Notebooks Shed Light on an Antibiotic’s Contested Discovery.” New York Times. June 11, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/science/notebooks-shed-light-on-an-antibiotic-discovery-and-a-mentors-betrayal.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
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