Abraham Waksman, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1952

Is your surname Waksman?

Research the Waksman family

Abraham Waksman, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1952's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Selman Abraham Waksman

Russian: Зельман Абрахам Ваксман, Нобелевский лауреат по медицине 1952г., Hebrew: זלמן אברהם וקסמן, חתן פרס נובל בפיזיולוגיה/רפואה 1952
Birthplace: Nova Pryluka, near Kiev, Russian Empire
Death: August 16, 1973 (85)
Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Woods Hole, Barnstable, MA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacob Waksman and Fradia Waksman
Husband of Bertha Deborah Waksman
Father of Byron Halsted Waksman
Brother of Miriam Waksman

Managed by: Yigal Burstein
Last Updated:

About Abraham Waksman, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1952

Selman Abraham Waksman (July 22, 1888 – August 16, 1973) was a Jewish Ukrainian-born American inventor, biochemist and microbiologist whose research into organic substances—largely into organisms that live in soil—and their decomposition promoted the discovery of Streptomycin, and several other antibiotics. A professor of biochemistry and microbiology at Rutgers University for four decades, he discovered over twenty antibiotics (a word which he coined) and introduced procedures that have led to the development of many others. The proceeds earned from the licensing of his patents funded a foundation for microbiological research, which established the Waksman Institute of Microbiology located on Rutgers University's Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey (USA). In 1952 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition "for his discovery of "streptomycin," the first antibiotic active against tuberculosis." Waksman was later accused of fraud by Albert Schatz, a PhD student working in his lab – who published the first paper on Streptomycin with Waksman as the secondary co-author.

In 2005 Selman Waksman was designated an ACS National Historical Chemical Landmark in recognition of the significant work of his lab in isolating more than fifteen antibiotics, including streptomycin, which was the first effective treatment for tuberculosis.


Selman Waksman was born on July 22, 1888, to Jewish parents, in Nova Pryluka, Podolia Governorate, in the Russian Empire, now Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine. He was the son of Fradia (London) and Jacob Waksman.[3] He immigrated to the United States in 1910, shortly after receiving his matriculation diploma from the Fifth Gymnasium in Odessa, and became a naturalised American citizen six years later.

Waksman attended Rutgers College (now Rutgers University), where he was graduated in 1915 with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Agriculture. He continued his studies at Rutgers, receiving a Master of Science (MSc) the following year. During his graduate study, he worked under J. G. Lipman at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers performing research in soil bacteriology. Waksman was then appointed as Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley from where he was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biochemistry in 1918.

Later he joined the faculty at Rutgers University in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. It was at Rutgers that Waksman's team discovered several antibiotics, including actinomycin, clavacin, streptothricin, streptomycin, grisein, neomycin, fradicin, candicidin, candidin, and others. Two of these, streptomycin and neomycin, have found extensive application in the treatment of numerous infectious diseases. Streptomycin was the first antibiotic that could be used to cure the disease tuberculosis. Waksman coined the term antibiotics.

Many awards and honors were showered on Waksman after 1940, most notably the Nobel Prize in 1952; the Star of the Rising Sun, bestowed on him by the emperor of Japan, and the rank of Commandeur in the French Légion d'honneur.

Selman Waksman died on August 16, 1973 and was interred at the Crowell Cemetery in Woods Hole, Barnstable County, Massachusetts. His tombstone is inscribed simply as Selman Abraham Waksman: Scientist, followed by his dates of birth and death, and the phrase "The earth will open and bring forth salvation" in Hebrew and English, which is a reference to Isaiah 45:8.

He was the father of Byron Waksman, involved in Multiple sclerosis research .

Other little known contributions of Selman Waksman include anti-fouling paints for the Navy, the use of enzymes in detergents, and the use of Concord grape root stock to protect the French Vineyards from fungal infection.


Waksman had been studying the Streptomyces family of organism since his college student days and had, for a time, been studying the organism Streptomyces griseus. Streptomycin was isolated from S. griseus and found effective against tuberculosis by one of Waksman's graduate students, Albert Schatz.


The details and credit for the discovery of streptomycin and its usefulness as an antibiotic were strongly contested by Schatz, eventually leading to litigation. Waksman and Rutgers settled out of court with Schatz, resulting in financial remuneration and entitlement to "legal and scientific credit as co-discoverer of streptomycin."

Systematic experiments to test several strains of antibiotic against several different disease organisms were under way in Waksman's laboratory at the time. Their classic approach was to explore a complete matrix with rows consisting of antibiotics and columns consisting of different diseases. The bacteria which produced the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered by Schatz in the farmland outside his lab, and tested by him. Waksman, however, eventually came to claim sole credit for the discovery.


Neomycin is derived from actinomycetes and was discovered by Waksman and Hubert A. Lechevalier, one of Waksman's graduate students. The discovery was published in the journal Science.

Nobel Prize

Waksman was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1952 "for his discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis."In the award speech, Waksman was called "one of the greatest benefactors to mankind," as the result of the discovery of streptomycin. Schatz protested being left out of the award, but the Nobel committee ruled that he was a mere lab assistant working under an eminent scientist.

In 1951, using half of his personal patent royalties, Waksman created the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology. At a meeting of the board of Trustees of the Foundation, held in July 1951 he urged the building of a facility for work in microbiology, named the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, which is located on the Busch campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. First president of the Foundation, Waksman was succeeded in this position by his son, Byron H. Waksman, from 1970 to 2000.

The Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology of the National Academy of Sciences is given in his honor.

About Abraham Waksman, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1952 (עברית)

זלמן אברהם וקסמן ( 22 ביולי 1888 – 16 באוגוסט 1973) היה ביוכימאי ומיקרוביולוג אמריקאי יהודי יליד רוסיה (אוקראינה), פרופסור לביוכימיה ומיקרוביולוגיה באוניברסיטת ראטגרס, חתן פרס נובל לפיזיולוגיה או לרפואה לשנת 1952 על גילוי הסטרפטומיצין.


וקסמן נולד למשפחה יהודית בכפר נובה פרילוקה שבדרום-מערב אימפריה הרוסית (כיום במחוז ויניצה באוקראינה). סיים לימודי תיכון בשנת 1910 בעיר אודסה. לאחר שהתקשה, כיהודי, להתקבל לאוניברסיטת אודסה, הוא היגר לארצות הברית, ושם סיים תואר ראשון באוניברסיטת ראטגרס בחקלאות בשנת 1915.

הוא חקר בתחום החיידקים שוכני האדמה בתחנת הניסיונות החקלאית של ניו ג'רזי והשלים לימודי תואר שני בשנת 1916, באותה שנה הוענקה לו אזרחות אמריקאית והוא מונה לעמית מחקר באוניברסיטת קליפורניה בברקלי, שם אף סיים לימודי דוקטורט בביוכימיה בשנת 1918.

הוא שב לאוניברסיטת ראטגרס בניו ג'רזי כמרצה במחלקה לביוכימיה ומיקרוביולוגיה. בעת עבודתו בראטגרס גילה וקסמן כמה תרופות אנטיביוטיות, כולל אקטינומיצין, קלבצין, סטרפטוטריצין, סטרפטומיצין, גריסין, נאומיצין, פרדיצין, קנדיצידין, קנדידין ועוד. שתיים מתרופות אלה, סטרפטומיצין ונאומיצין, מצאו שימוש נרחב כטיפול במחלות דלקתיות שונות. סטרפטומיצין הייתה התרופה הראשונה לטיפול במחלת השחפת. וקסמן הוא זה שטבע את המונח 'אנטיביוטיקה'.

אף שווקסמן היה זה שחקר את הסטרפטומיצין מאז היותו סטודנט לתואר ראשון, הזכויות לגילוי התרופה האנטיביוטית נתבעו על ידי סטודנט מחקר של וקסמן בשם אלברט שץ. מחלוקת זו הובילה לתביעה משפטית שבה זכה שץ לפיצוי נכבד וכן להכרזה רשמית כי הוא חולק עם וקסמן בזכויות על גילוי הסטרפטומיצין. שץ תבע זכויות על גילוי התרופה כיוון שכסטודנט מחקר היה אחראי לביצוע הניסויים במעבדה על הסטרפטומיצין כטיפול בשחפת, תוך נטילת סיכון אישי רב, כל זאת במעבדה של וקסמן ותחת פיקוחו של וקסמן.

התעורר אף ויכוח בשאלה אם לא היה ראוי כי שץ יחלוק אף בפרס נובל שהוענק לווקסמן בשנת 1952. אולם מנימוקי הפרס הובן כי זה הוענק לווקסמן לא רק בזכות גילוי הסטרפטומיצין אלא בעבור גילוי תרופות אנטיביוטיות רבות אחרות.

בשנת 1951 הקים וקסמן על שמו את קרן וקסמן למיקרוביולוגיה, והשקיע בה מחצית מכספי התמלוגים שקיבל על פיתוחיו. מכספי הקרן הוקם מכון למיקרוביולוגיה שאף הוא נושא את שמו של וקסמן.

וקסמן נפטר בשנת 1973. הותיר את אשתו, דבורה (לבית מיטניק), ובנו ביירון וקסמן (1919–2012), אימונולוג נודע.


view all

Abraham Waksman, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1952's Timeline

July 22, 1888
near Kiev, Russian Empire
September 15, 1919
Rochester, Olmsted County, Minnesota, United States
August 16, 1973
Age 85
Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States
August 1973
Age 85
Woods Hole, Barnstable, MA, United States