Photo: Waksman Museum.
Photo: Waksman Museum.
Photo: Martin Hall.
Photo: Waksman Museum.

Welcome to the Waksman Museum

Albert Schatz and Selman Waksman

Albert Schatz and Selman Waksman —
co-discoverers of streptomycin

The Waksman Microbiology Museum at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences campus, Rutgers University, was the laboratory in which streptomycin was discovered by Professor Selman Waksman and graduate student Albert Schatz. (Schatz, A., E. Bugie & S. Waksman, 1944. Proc. Soc. Exptl. Biol. Med. 55:66-69). The announcement of the discovery was earth shattering. Here was an antibiotic acting towards a wider spectrum of pathogens than those attacked by penicillin, and additionally streptomycin was especially important in being the world's first anti-infective towards the tuberculosis pathogen. Soil microbiology had deep roots at Rutgers.

Streptomyces griseus microscopy

Streptomyces griseus — producer of streptomycin Courtesy of S. Amano, S. Miyadoh and T. Shomura (The Society for Actinomycetes, Japan)

Here in this soil microbiology teaching laboratory came the momentous discovery of the streptomycin producing microbe, Streptomyces griseus. It was recovered from both soil and a chicken, resources unmerited in medical microbiology. Positive clinical trials soon followed at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. Merck & Co. had supported the initial research and then developed fermentors for large scale production. Waksman's group discovered 18 antibiotics (streptomycin, neomycin, actinomycin) in a cooperative team effort including women during the World War II era. The legacy of the Waksman Museum includes: first the demonstration that soil was a treasure trove of antagonistic microbes which could be cultivated to produce a wide range of medical products, from antibiotics to immunosuppresants, and secondly, the soil screening methodology which promoted the development of the pharmaceutical industry through discovery of a diverse range of medical products. Streptomycin saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tuberculosis sufferers. Selman Waksman was recognized through the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1952.

Lecture Room

The Waksman Museum: Soil Microbiology History — Lecture Room — Teleconferencing Center