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Experiment Eleven: Dark Secrets Behind the Discovery of a Wonder Drug Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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“A classic in the history of science. With forensic skill and narrative virtuosity, Pringle has at last told the true story of streptomycin; gripping in all the best ways.” ―Matt Ridley, author of Genome and The Rational Optimist
“Peter Pringle has done it again. The story of Experiment Eleven is amazing, but no more so than his brilliant reporting, narrative verve and cool command of scientific ideas.” ―Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
“Peter Pringle's excellent book Experiment Eleven details how a simple discovery dominated and remodelled the lives of both these two scientists. It tells of a bitter legal fight over credit and a misallocated Nobel prize. And, like the best of dramas, it reaches outwards, to illuminate scientific behaviour at the time, and forwards, to change our perceptions of scientific ethics today.” ―Peter A. Lawrence, Current Biology, Vol 22 No 7
“Riveting history of the discovery of one of the most important drugs of the last century…. [Pringle] skillfully relates an important tale of a life-saving scientific discovery tarnished by egotism and injustice.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Pringle tells a complex tale of scientific intrigue…. A gripping account of academic politics and the birth of the pharmaceutical industry. ” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Pringle exposes the roles of personality, power, and the pharmaceutical industry in the process of medical research. Even in science, the truth can be tricky.” ―Tony Miksanek, Booklist
Top Customer Reviews
It's a story of scientific fraud. Not just any fraud. The fraud behind the awarding of a Nobel Prize in 1952 to Selman Waksman --- and Waksman alone --- for his discovery of streptomycin in 1943. Streptomycin was a hugely important advance. After penicillin, it was the pioneering antibiotic: it cured tuberculosis. So its discoverer well deserved a Nobel. But the real discoverer, Albert Schatz, had been erased from the record by Waksman. Schatz, as a 23-year-old grad student working in the basement of Waksman's soil laboratory at Rutgers, had not merely identified the strain of microbes which are, so to speak, the raw form of streptomycin.Read more ›
This book tells a very different type of story. Selman Waksman has been almost universally regarded as the sole discoverer of Streptomycin, which was derived from fungi present in New Jersey farmyard soil. However, it was his student, Albert Schatz, who first isolated the substance and demonstrated its antibacterial properties. At first, Waksman "graciously" acknowledged his student's contributions, allowing him the place of senior author on the first published papers and sharing a patent with him.Read more ›
I had a remote connection with the players in this real-life drama. From 1935 to 1938 I lived next door, on Lafayette Ave., Passaic, NJ, to the then teenaged Al, before he went off to Rutgers University. He was eight years my senior. He later married Vivian Rosenfeld, whose father was my high school physics teacher. Her younger sister Eleanor, a talented pianist, was my friend.
As a Rutgers senior I inducted Dr. Selman Waksman into the honor society, Cap and Skull. That was before I knew the story Peter Pringle tells. I regret that when I was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Targum, I hadn't yet learned of the University's and Dr. Waksman's stealing credit from Al for the streptomycin discovery. I'd have enjoyed exposing them, as I'd busted the school's support of fraternity racial segregation and unlawful ROTC loyalty oaths.
Rutgers administrators were also duplicitous toward the school's most famous graduate, Paul Robeson. I was the last student to interview him--that was in January, 1947--for the singer/actor who'd been an All-American athlete and 1919 valedictorian was never invited back to give a concert. He was unwelcome because of his political views. As the Cold War thawed, Rutgers administrators reclaimed the celebrity, Robeson, whose heart they had already broken.
An emotional connection was my having last seen and talked outdoors with my estranged mother in 1937, when I was nine, just a few feet from the Schatzes' corner house. In 1942, one year before Al discovered streptomycin, she committed suicide in the belief her TB was incurable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written; sad story about a passionate scientist whose future was torn away from him.Published 4 months ago by jmcgrath
As a microbiologist specializing in antibacterial chemotherapy, I couldn't resist this one. And I was not disappointed. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Dr. S. Shapiro
A remarkably written story about a graduate student's long hours of hard work leading to the discovery of Streptomycin, the first effective anti-TB medication, which his... Read morePublished 20 months ago by PeeBrain
This is a great book. In discussing the discovery and development of the antibiotic streptomycin, author Peter Pringle crafts a compelling story with great pacing. Read morePublished on January 7, 2014 by Steve G
This fascinating story, very well and clearly told, covers the "gold rush" days of the early discovery and development of antibiotics. Read morePublished on September 23, 2013 by KarinP
Selman Waksman the professor totally screwed his ph.d. assistant, Albert Schatz, out of any recognition or glory or media attention or money for the discovery of streptomycin. Read morePublished on September 14, 2012 by mindfulmaggie
This book outlines the discovery of streptomycin, the first cure discovered for tuberculosis, and the ensuing controversy between Albert Schatz and Selman Waksman. As a Ph.D. Read morePublished on May 12, 2012 by Mary E. Young