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René Jules Dubos Edit Profile


René Dubos was a French-American microbiologist, best known for his pioneering work on soil bacteria, which led to important advances in antibiotics.


Dubos was born in Saint-Brice, in west-central France, on February 20, 1901. His parents His parents, Georges Andre Dubos and Adeline De Bloe'dt operated butcher shops.


He received his early education in agricultural science at the National Institute of Agronomy, in Paris. He went to the United States in 1924 and attended Rutgers University, where he obtained his Ph. D. in 1927. He then joined the faculty of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University) in New York City, as a member of the department of environmental medicine.


He became an American citizen in 1938. Except for a period during World War II when he was professor of tropical medicine at the Harvard University School of Medicine, Dubos remained at the Rockefeller Institute for the rest of his professional life. Dubos was particularly interested in the effect of soil bacteria on pathogenic, or disease-causing, bacteria. In 1939 he isolated from the soil bacterium Bacillus brevis a peptide substance that he named tyrothricin. Tyrothricin was of limited use in combating disease, but Dubos' findings led to the discovery of streptomycin and other antibiotics, which began a revolution in the treatment of infectious disease. Later in his career, Dubos found himself drawn to wider fields of endeavor. By the 1960's, he had all but abandoned his microbiology to campaign for the environment in a series of books, essays, and speeches. His book on humanity and the environment, So Human an Animal, won a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1969.


  • Dubos pioneering research in isolating antibacterial substances from certain soil microorganisms led to the discovery of major antibiotics. He performed groundbreaking research and wrote extensively on a number of subjects, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, and the mechanisms of acquired immunity, natural susceptibility, and resistance to infection. In later years, Dubos explored the interplay of environmental forces and the physical, mental and spiritual development of mankind. He showed a knack for coining slogans such as “Think Globally, Act Locally”. His words provoked and galvanized millions of people.


National Academy of Sciences


He was shy and reserved.


In 1934 Dubos married Marie Louise Bonnet, French immigrant with severe rheumatic heart disease, who was studying French symbolist poetry at Columbia. She died in 1942 from tuberculosis. In 1946 he married (Letha) Jean Porter, his research assistant, who also developed tuberculosis but survived. They acquired a farm in the Hudson River valley and spent a large part of each year there, enjoying country life and planting trees.

Georges Andre Dubos

He operated butcher shops

Adeline De Bloe'dt

She operated butcher shops

Marie Louise Bonnet

She was a French immigrant

(Letha) Jean Porter

She was a research assistant