Selman Waksman (1888-1973)


Born July 22, 1888, Pryluky, Ukraine

In 1919 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

1930-40: Professor of soil microbiology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J. During his extensive study of the actinomycetes he extracted from them antibiotics valuable for their killing effect not only on gram-positive bacteria, against which penicillin is effective, but also on gram-negative bacteria, of which the tubercle bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) is one.

In 1943 he extracted the relatively nontoxic streptomycin from the actinomycete Streptomyces griseus and found that it exercised repressive influence on tuberculosis. In combination with other chemotherapeutic agents, streptomycin has become a major factor in controlling the disease.
His discovery of the antibiotic streptomycin, the first specific agent effective in the treatment of tuberculosis, brought him the 1952 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
Waksman also isolated and developed several other antibiotics, including neomycin, that are used in treating many infectious diseases of humans, domestic animals, and plants.

He died on August 16, 1973, Hyannis, Massachusetts, U.S.A.