Waksman revolutionized medicine and saved the lives of countless
tuberculosis patients with Streptomycin, a powerful antibiotic.
As pioneer in microbiology, Waksman specialized in the study of
microbes in soil. He recognized that microorganisms produced many
organic substances with unknown properties and created a screening
system to isolate and identify those substances with antibiotic
properties. By examining thousands of soil samples, his lab identified
a number of viable antibiotic drugs. The most important find,
streptomycin, provided the first effective treatment for tuberculosis,
a disease that had ravaged mankind. Previously, tuberculosis victims
were kept in sanitaria where their main treatment was fresh air
and a healthy diet.
Waksman's success inspired others to research antibiotics. Royalties
from patents generated enormous profits, enabling Waksman to establish
and fund the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University
and the Foundation for Microbiology, which now bears his name.
Born near Kiev, in the Ukraine, Waksman traveled to the U.S. to
study at Rutgers, later receiving his Ph.D. for the University
of California. The recipient of many honors, Waksman won the Nobel
Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1952 and is credited with
coining the term "antibiotic."