Skip to comments.Notebooks Shed Light on an Antibioticís Contested Discovery
Posted on 06/17/2012 7:36:45 PM PDT by neverdem
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. For as long as archivists at Rutgers University could remember, a small cardboard box marked with the letter W in black ink had sat unopened in a dusty corner of the special collections of the Alexander Library. Next to it were 60 sturdy archive boxes of papers, a legacy of the universitys most famous scientist: Selman A. Waksman, who won a Nobel Prize in 1952 for the discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic to cure tuberculosis.
The 60 boxes contained details of how streptomycin was found and also of the murky story behind it, a vicious legal battle between Dr. Waksman and his graduate student Albert Schatz over who deserved credit.
Dr. Waksman died in 1973; after Dr. Schatzs death in 2005, the papers were much in demand by researchers trying to piece together what really happened between the professor and his student. But nobody looked in the small cardboard box.
The story of streptomycin is no ordinary tale of discovery. It began in August 1943, when Dr. Schatz, a 23-year-old graduate student at the Rutgers College of Agriculture, isolated the powerful antibiotic produced by a bacterium, Streptomyces griseus, that had been found in a pot of farmyard soil.
His supervisor, Professor Waksman, arranged for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to test the substance in guinea pigs, and then in humans. It worked. Streptomycin, cleared up infections, including TB, that had defied even the first wonder drug, penicillin.
As word of the discovery spread, reporters flocked to Rutgers to record the amazing event. But in telling and retelling the story, Dr. Waksman slowly began to drop Dr. Schatzs name and claim sole credit. He also arranged with Rutgers to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties from the patent that he and Dr...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
The discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming probably led to the other antibiotics but as a whole I have read that anti-biotics are responsible for hundreds of millions perhaps even more, of people not dying prematurely.
That may just be the most important discovery of them all. How much longer it will be effective is anyone’s guess but I bet the come up with new ones as old ones become less effective.
Professors have many graduate students working for them under their direction that do the grunt work. They do get “some” joint credit in publications and such but to suggest that a grad student should be credited with the discoveries he makes following the directions of a superior is just silly.
Streptomycin is what I was given in 1970 after I came down with plague. I’d probably not be around if not for streptomycin.
Thank you, Dr. Waksman, I owe you my life.
So Dr. Waksman is a crook and scoundrel, for stealing Dr. Schatz work. All the makings of a dramatic movie. Except both died before the truth came to light. I hope Waksman’s name is blotted out from the history books and Dr. Schatz is given proper credit. And if a movie is made, that Dr. Waksman is completely discredited. Too many crooks out there stealing other inventor’s ideas and work.
Re-read the article. Evidence was uncovered in the superior's collection that showed he hid the evidence, and the evidence was the grad student's notebooks clearly detailing that the grad student did all the discovery work long before the superior entered the picture.
“If you are not a scientist then you wouldn’t understand this, and it would seem unfair.”
I have been involved several times as an ‘underling’ in research work and have always been given shared credit for the work I did in various discoveries. I was given a free hand in the research work and though there was some direction, there were ‘discoveries’ that were clearly mine. I was always given credit. But then, I worked for honest, decent research scientists.
On one occasion, as an undergraduate student, I was given the opportunity to present a paper, for some privately funded research, as co-author, before the Iowa Academy of Science where a number of my immediate professors were in attendence.
I also was introduced to Dr Paul Dudley White and Ancel Keys as being co-collaborator in ongoing research that they were interested in.
I also had a paper published in the Journal of Bacteriology as a result of research that was ‘directed’ by a superior.
Money and ‘Nobel Prizes’ were not a factor, of course in my experiences.
You probably owe your life to Dr. Schatz, but crediting Dr Wakeman is ok too, though if it were you who discovered Streptomycin under his direction, he probably would not have given you credit.
Could be because in those cases they also did not give them probiotics. When antibiotics were first used they gave probiotics during and after to replenish good bacteria they knew would also die off. They don’t do that anymore.
“Too many crooks out there stealing other inventors ideas and work.”
I’m sure that Barack Obama senior really deserves the credit. Like son, like father.
“When antibiotics were first used they gave probiotics during and after to replenish good bacteria they knew would also die off. They dont do that anymore.”
I have never heard this - where did you get this information? I was under the impression that the whole concept of probiotics was relatively recent, in the last 10-15 years or so.
Waksman showing signs of Global Warming and Climate Change character fraud and greed...
When you work for someone else, and invent something, the invention belongs to the employer. Discoveries operate the same way. Dr Waksman was the employer, grad student Schatz was the employee. It was Dr. Waksman who directed the work and “owned” the discovery. Waksman maybe should have shared some of the fame, but he was not required to share the reward. Schatz’s reward was his pay.
Lets say you are a .... treasure hunter and you have spent your life gathering clues about a particular treasure's location.
You then hire a team of minimum wage students to come with you to the location you suspect has the treasure to help with the digging and such, but once there you have a hard time finding the exact spot, when suddenly one of the young team members thinks to look under a large boulder nearby and... wala! the treasure is found!
Should the digger be given half the treasure because he thought to look under the rock at the location the treasure hunter had brought him too (and half the credit for the finding it)?
I am quite sure that nearly all famous men had hired help with them that got no or nearly no credit. Was Robert Perry alone at the North Pole? Did Edmound Hillary climb Everest without help? Heck did the Pharaoh's lift a single stone themselves building the pyramids?
And history is full of examples of greedy men who hired men that came to them with new discoveries, tricking them into believing it was a partnership and collaboration. For example Bell and Edison who stole the ideas of countless others. Tesla was one such inventor who was ripped off, after bringing his inventions to the notice of so-called famous men.