MembersSelman Waksman, Discoverer of Streptomycin

JEWS WHO SHAPED THE WORLD

By Tsvi Sadan |
Selman Abraham Waksman
GENIUS IN THE LAB: Waksman coined the term ‘antibiotics’ Photo: Creative Commons

Selman Abraham Waksman (1888-1973) received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1952 for his discovery of streptomycin. Born to a typical Jewish family from the small town of Novaya-Priluka, Ukraine, at the age of five Waksman entered the cheder, a religious elementary school. Like other families who could afford it, his education in Judaism was supplemented by private tutors who taught him Russian, literature, history, arithmetic and geography.

 

The anti-Semitic outbreak that followed the Russian Revolution of 1905 sent Waksman to America, and in 1910 he settled in Metuchen, New Jersey. He enrolled at Rutgers University where he began his studies on soil bacteria. It was there that he started his research on the actinomycetes bacteria, the theme of his M.A. and doctorate research, which he received from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1918, he returned to Rutgers as a lecturer in soil and microbiology.

 

During this time, Waksman and his colleagues isolated...

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