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Source: Newark Sunday News: December 31, 1950
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Dr. Schatz Is Modest in Victory

Scientist Quips About Streptomycin Suit

By Max Wienir


Dr. Albert Schatz, who had to sue to win formal recognition as co-discoverer of streptomycin, is a slim, attractive, boyish young man of 30 with a winning smile, a keen sense of humor and a ready tongue which delights in calling a spade at least a shovel.

Though he now lives and teaches in Brooklyn he has worked and resided almost all of his life in Passaic, and both his parents and those of his wife are residents of North Jersey.

The young scientist, who currently holds a $5,000-a-year job as assistant professor of biology at Brooklyn College, won a settlement out of court In which Dr. Salman A. Waksman and the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation formally acknowledged that he is a co-discoverer with Wakaman of the miracle drug. In addition, Schatz got $125,000 in a lump sum in settlement of foreign patent rights, and 3 per cent of the royalties for the life of the patent, which means about $15,000 a year for the next 15 years.

Pokes Fun at Self

Schatz smilingly poked fun at himself and at various aspects of the case when the settlement was completed. Among other things, in the wake of his bitter pre-trial battle with Rutgers, his alma mater, he quipped: "I guess I can now be rated as a successful Rutgers grad."

He was horn in Norwich, Conn., but his family moved to Passaic when he was two and his home was in that city until four years ago. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Julius Schatz, now live at 1506 11th street, Fair Lawn. His father is a builder.

Schatz was graduated from Passaic public and high schools. He is married to the former Miss Vivian Rosenfeld, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Rosenfeld of 40 Portland avenue, Clifton. Rosenfeld is a physics teacher in Clifton High School.

Has Modest Home

Dr. Schatz, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, Diane, now live ill a modest apartment at 210 Riverdale avenue, Brooklyn. Despite his new affluence, h intends to remain in his chosen field of microbiology, and he regards the money as helpful mostly because it will enable him to devote more of his time to research.

As a child, he often visited his grandmother's farm near Norwich, and was fascinated by the soil and its ability to produce. It was thereore natural that he should enroll at New Jersey College of Agriculture, Rutgers University, to study soil chemistry.

He became interested in the micro-organisms in the soil, and stayed on as a graduate student in Dr. Waksman's department. In Noember, 1942, he was still in a labratory, but this time in uniform. He did routine diagnostic tests for he Army in Miami until June, 1943, vhen he got a medical discharge ecause of a back condition.

While in the Army he continued experiments on antibiotics during all his spare moments. He sent Dr. Waksman the results of his work and the latter published a paper crediting Schatz. When he got out of the Army he went back to the Rutgers laboratory to continue the work. It was during this period that he isolated two micro-organisms wich by coincidence produced antibiotics which appeared to inhibit the tubercle bacillus. The first paper announcing this effect apeared in a scientific publication in 1944, signed by Schatz and Dr. Waksman.

Schats worked on streptomycin a year longer, then did research on viruses for about two years in collaboration with Miss Doris Jones, one of the associates who had worked on streptomycin. After that he did research on polio and smallpox for the New York State Department of Health and on cancer for the Sloan-Kettering Institute before going to Stanford University in California as a GI graduate student, earning $105 a month. His wife, who was pregnant, was washing flasks part time in the laboratory to earn an extra $15 a month.

He explained that he had assigned the patent rights in streptomycin to the Rutgers Foundation under the impression that nobody, not even the Foundation, would make any royalties out of it. He said he was quite willing to let the drug be manufactured for the public benefit under licenses issued by the Foundation to insure that there would be no abuse or misleading advertising.

Read of Gift

It was at this juncture, while he was in California, that he read a newspaper story telling how Dr. Waksman had been honored for giving away $1,000,000 in royalty rights to the Foundation, and for discovering streptomycin. There was no mention of Dr. Schatz 4n the story. Schatz said that he had not been interested in public acclaim, but that when he discovered that Dr. Wakeman was getting sole credit for giving away a million dollars, he felt, first of all, that he had somehow been misled in signing away the patent on the theory that nobody would make any royalties and second, that he should at least get credit for having shared in a generous a gift.

He said he at once wrote to Dr. Waksman, reminding him that he had assigned the patent, in which they appear as co-discoverers, on the understanding that this was the best way to assure that the drug would be used for the benefit of humanity.

Decided to Sue

He got a reply from the foundation which he said indicated that nobody was getting any personal benefit from streptomycin. But there was still no public acknowledgement, he said, and so he decided to sue. He consulted a New York lawyer who retained Jerome C. Eisenberg of Newark to start suit and handle the case in the New Jersey courts. The result is now history.

As for his role as co-discoverer of stretomycin, Dr. Schatz admits he worked day and night on his tests, but modestly insists that the discovery came about more by sheer hard work than any brilliance. The work consisted of isolating a few of the billions of micro-organisms in the soil and testing their effects on germs. Does he, hope to make more discoveries? Shaking his head, he says that of course he hopes, but that a discovry like streptomycin is usually a once-in-a-lifetime proposition.