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Albert Schatz

American microbiologist and science educator

Died when: 84 years 350 days (1019 months)
Star Sign: Aquarius

 

Albert Schatz

Albert Israel Schatz (2 February 1920 – 17 January 2005) was an American microbiologist and academic, best known as the discoverer of the antibiotic streptomycin, the first drug known to be effective for the treatment of tuberculosis.

He graduated from Rutgers University in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in soil microbiology, and received his doctorate from Rutgers in 1945.

It was his PhD research that directly led to the discovery of streptomycin.Born to a family of farmers, Schatz was inspired to study soil science so that it would be useful for him to take up his family occupation.

Topping his class in 1942, he immediately worked under Selman Waksman, then head of the Department of Soil Microbiology, but was drafted to the US Army to serve in the World War II.

After a back injury led to his discharge from the army, he rejoined Waksman in 1943 as a PhD student.Working in isolation from others for his use of tuberculosis bacterium (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) he discovered a new antibiotic which he named "streptomycin" that was proven safe and effective against the tuberculosis bacterium and Gram-negative bacteria.

He also contributed to the discovery another antibiotic albomycin in 1947.The discovery of streptomycin led to controversial issues on the royalties of commercial production and Nobel Prize.

Unbeknown to Schatz, Waksman had claimed the financial benefits only for himself and the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation.A lawsuit granted Schatz 3% of the royalties and a legal recognition as the co-discover.

Then the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given solely to Waksman explicitly "for his discovery of streptomycin," which The Lancet remarked as "a considerable mistake by failing to recognise Schatz's contribution." As an act of goodwill, Schatz was honoured with the Rutgers University Medal in 1994.


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