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Albert Schatz (2 February 1922 – 17 January 2005) was the co-discoverer of streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy used to treat tuberculosis and a number of other diseases. Originally, the discovery of streptomycin was credited only to Schatz's supervisor, Selman Waksman.

Early life and education

Schatz was born in Norwich, Connecticutmarker of Jewish-Russian and English parents and was raised on a farm [147592]. After a change of direction from farmer to pedology following a course by Dr. Jacob Joffe, Schatz began graduate school at Rutgers Universitymarker, at Selman Waksman's laboratory, and eventually went on to earn his Ph.D. from Rutgers.

Streptomycin Discovery and War over Nobel Prize

With a meager stipend, Schatz lived in a small room in a greenhouse at the university. In early 1942, he was drafted into the Army and served as a laboratory aid at Miamy Hospital, where he saw young soldiers die from infections resistant to penicillin. This led him to look for soil bacteria capable of inhibiting the growth of penicilin-resistant microbes. He sent some promising strains to Dr. Waksman for further testing.

In early 1943, Schatz was discharged from the army due to problems with his back, returned to graduate school, and continued work on soil bacteria in Dr. Waksman's basement laboratory at Cook College in Rutgers University. Dr Waksman was at the last stages of purifying streptomycin, testing it at an external lab in vivo in animals, and formulating the procedures for isolating antibiotic-producing bacteria.

According to Schatz's memoirs, he convinced Dr. Waksman to continue the research he had started at the Miamy Hospital, and continued at it day and night.

According to coworker and friend Professor George Pieczenik, of Rutgers University, Schatz was known to sleep in his basement laboratory. When Schatz got married, he and his wife were forced to move a bed into the lab, which was so small that the two had to "lean it against the wall just so that it would fit".

Despite these conditions, Schatz took only 3 months to isolate two strains of Actinobacteria capable of stopping the growth of several penicillin-resistant bacteria, on October 19, 1943.

Schatz was listed second on the patent after Waksman, first on the scientific paper, and had soon after the discovery issued his doctorate thesis on the discovery of streptomycin.


Originally, the discovery of streptomycin was credited only to Schatz's supervisor, Selman Waksman, who would later receive a Nobel Prize in 1952 for this work. Schatz, however, strongly contested the crediting and in 1950 brought litigation against Waksman, requesting recognition as streptomycin's co-discoverer and a portion of streptomycin royalties. Schatz's requests were eventually granted in an out-of-court settlement.

Dr. Schatz held faculty positions at Brooklyn Collegemarker; the National Agricultural College in Doylestown, Pennsylvaniamarker; the University of Chile; and joined the Temple Universitymarker faculty in 1969. He retired from Temple University in 1980.

Schatz was awarded the Rutgersmarker medal in 1994 for his work on developing streptomycin.

Schatz was a socialist, an active environmentalist and was involved in local welfare, co-operatives and community recycling projects. An example of his community involvement is that until two years before his death, Schatz volunteered at the nearby Weavers Way sharpening knives. He campaigned against water fluoridation and argued for a "proteolysis-chelation theory" of tooth decay, which was criticized as "more philosophic than experimental".

In 2004, author Inge Auerbacher co-wrote the book Finding Dr. Schatz: The Discovery of Streptomycin and a Life It Saved with Schatz. The book chronicled his discovery of streptomycin and meeting Auerbacher, a holocaust survivor and recipient of his antibiotic. A documentary by the same name "Finding Dr. Schatz", directed by Richard Colosi from Rochester, NY will be released in 2009.

Schatz died from pancreatic cancer at his home in Philadelphiamarker in 2005.

Albert Schatz's archives have been donated to the Temple University Library.

External links


  1. This needs further checking, following the book and movie. As far as I understand his wife met him only after the discovery was made famous
  2. It is important to note that this headline is misleading, since Schatz never publicly claimed that Waksman had NO part in the discovery, and in the final agreement, Schatz received 3% while Waksman still received 10% of the prize money.
  3. Wainwright M. (2005). Albert Schatz Co-discoverer of streptomycin. The Independent.

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