Selman Abraham Waksman Edit Profile
He immigrated to the United States in 1910, shortly after receiving his matriculation diploma from the Fifth Gymnasium in Odessa, and became a naturalised American citizen six years later.
Waksman attended Rutgers College (now Rutgers University), where he was graduated in 1915 with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Agriculture. He continued his studies at Rutgers, receiving a Master of Science (MSc) the following year. During his graduate study, he worked under J. G. Lipman at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers performing research in soil bacteriology. Waksman was then appointed as Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley from where he was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biochemistry in 1918.
The events and casualties of World War II encouraged the search for new antibacterial substances. Waksman applied himself to this task and coined the term “antibiotic” as “a substance produced by one organism which kills other micro-organisms.” In 1943 he discovered streptomycin from a strain of fungus, Slreptomyces griseus. The new drug was found to be highly effective against a large number of bacteria, including tuberculosis, and because of its wide application streptomycin was classed as a “broad spectrum” antibiotic. In the course of his research, Waksman developed many methods for the isolation and purification of antibiotics as well as for the cultivation of microorganisms. He also isolated and developed neomycin and other antibiotics used for the treatment of various infectious diseases.
Waksman received many international and academic honors, including the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology in 1952.
His books included Principles of Soil Microbiology (1927), which became a standard work on the subject, The Conquest of Tuberculosis (1964), and an autobiography, My Life with the Microbes (1954), which he summarized as “the story of the life of an immigrant boy who went from the steppes of the Ukraine to the New World in search of a better education and better opportunities to do what he wanted with his life.... I tried my best.”