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Source: Pennsylvania Poultry Review: November 1952
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Dr. Albert Schatz, Co-discoverer of Streptomycin, Ignored in Nobel Award

Won 1951 Law Suit Awarded $110,000


In late October, the Nobel Prize Committee for Medicine announced that Dr. Selman Waksman, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N. J., was the recipient of this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of streptomycin, the anti T. B. antibiotic.

This award, motivated immediate action, on the part of the administration and faculty of the National Agricultural College, Doylestown, Pa., on behalf of Dr. Scchatz, who is Professor of Microbiology at the college. In 1951, as the result of a law suit. Dr. Schatz won recognition as a "legal and scientific co-disccver of streptomycin and was awarded a $110,000 settlement and 3 per cent of the royalties on the dng.

0n this premise Elmer Reinthaler, Ph. D., vice president of National Agricultural College, wrote the following letter to Professor Coran Liljestrand, secretary of the Nobel Committee for Medicine, Caroline Institute, University of Stockholme, Stockholm, Sweden, we quote:

"It is with a sense of profound satisfaction that the Administration and Faculty of this College has heard of the award of the 1952 Nobel Prize for the discovery of streptomycin. We are particularly gratified at this honor as the original discovery of streptomycin was jointly made by Dr. Selman A. Waksman and Dr Albert Schatz, who is Professor of Microbiology at this College. We note, however, with amazement that the award was made solely to Dr. Waksman, one of discoverers.

"We are certain that so distinguished a body as the Council of the Caroline Institute could not have been aware of, and yet have ignored, certain most pertinent facts regarding the discovery of streptomycin and the original co-discoverers thereof. For this reason we have caused an invstigation to be made, and as a result thereof are convinced that further consideration by your Council would be well warranted We respectfully submit, herewith a summary of our findings pertaining to the discovery of streptomycin.

"Inasmuch as the 1945 Nobel Prize was awarded, in the most equitable manner, to Sir Alexander Fleming, Dr. Ernest Boris Chain and Sir Howard Walter Florey as the joint discovers of penicillin, it is the opinion of the Administration and Faculty of this College that just recognition should be given to Dr. Albert Schatz, one of our colleagues, for his contribution to the discovery of streptomycin.

"We sincerely trust that you will give consideration to this request and eagerly await your reply We shall be pleased, upon request, to furnish you with documentary support of the factual statements contained in the enclosed summary. We enclose three copies of this letter and the supporting summary for your convenience in distribution to the members of your committee."

Accompanying the letter was a complete story of (1) The History of Actinomyces Griseus Cultures, (2) Dr. Schatz's Doctoral Thesis, (3) The Publication History of Streptcmycin, (4) The History of the Patent Application, and other developments, the most noteworthy being that on May 3, 1946 Dr. Waksman requested Dr. Schatz to join him in assigning to the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation their U. S. patent which Dr. Schatz did. This, was in support, of an original agreement between Dr. Waksman and Dr. Schatz, that neither would profit personally from proceeds which might he derived as a result of their joint discovery, because streptomycin, by its very nature was so vitally concerned with human health and even human life.

There was no response from the Nobel Committee, so on November 19, a second letter was sent which we reprint:

"Dear Professor Liljestrand:

"On October 29, 1952 the Adminstraticjn and Faculty of this College directed me to address a letter to you requesting, on behalf of our colleague, Dr. Albert Schatz the co-discoverer of streptomycin, a review of the award of the Nobel Prize to Dr. Selman A. Waksman.

As yet we have received no reply to our inquiry. We have however, been given, by the Swedish American News Exchange, translations of statements from the Stockholm Svenska D'agbladet of October 31, 1952, by Professor Nils K. Stable, Director of the Nobel Fcundation, who has commented that Nobel Prize Awards are not subject to review, and by Prelessor Hliding Bergstrand, President of the Nobel Committee of the Caroline Institute, who has stated that the award to Dr. Waksman was made solely on the basis of scientific publications, and that his committee has been satisfied with those which were submitted to it.

"It came as a surprise and shock to us that Dr. Wakeman did not bring to the attention of the Nobel Committee the fact, which he had already publicly stated, that Dr. Schatz is entitled to credit legally and scientifically as co-discoverer, with himself of streptomycin. This seems so different from what we understand, to be the position taken by Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Howard Florey in 1945.

"If the principal, or the only, rationale for the award is scientific publications, as Professor Bergstrand comments, your attention is directed to the following scientific publications which may not have appeared before the Committee but which should be examined:

" '(1) Schatz, A, Bugie, E., and Waksman, S. A. streptomycin, a substance exhibiting antibiotic activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Proc. Soc. Exper. Biol. & Med., 55: 66-69, 1944.'

" '(2) Schatz, A. and Waksrnan, S. A. Effect of streptomycin and other antibiotic substances upon Mycobacterium tuberculosis and related organisms. Pro. Soc. Eper. Biol. & Med., 57: 244248, 1944.'

" '(3) Schatz, A. and Waksman, S. A. Strain specificity and prodiction of antibiotic substances. IV. Variations among actinomycetes with special reference to, Actinomyces griseus. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 31: 129-137, 1945.'

"We think you will agree with us that mere procedural technicalities should not permit what would constitute a serious injustice to a scientist, and conceal from the scientific and lay world the facts surrounding the discovery of streptomycin." At present time no word has been received from the Nobel Committee. It is regretable that this cherished award should be touched by unfair discrimination. Dr. Schatz, certainly merits recognition for his part in this great contribution to mankind.