Experiment Eleven: Dark Secrets Behind the Discovery of a Wonder Drug

Peter Pringle. Walker, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1774-0
The rift between eminent microbiologist Selman Waksman and his brilliant graduate student Albert Schatz was a spectacular fallout in the annals of science. In this riveting history of the discovery of one of the most important drugs of the last century—streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis—journalist Pringle (Food, Inc.) argues that the story of the co-discoverers of the antibiotic is a fascinating human as well as scientific drama. Pringle not only recaps the split between the Rutgers researchers but the part played by the pharmaceutical giant Merck, which Waksman consulted for and which filed the scientists’ patent application and then leased the rights from Rutgers to make the drug. Streptomycin led to countless happy endings, not least for Waksman, who claimed the spotlight for himself, leaving Schatz ignored and bitter. When Waksman worked out a deal to reap 20% of Rutgers’s take of the royalties, Schatz turned to the courts to reclaim his co-inventor status. Pringle skillfully relates an important tale of a life-saving scientific discovery tarnished by egotism and injustice. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 05/08/2012
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