Experiment Eleven–Peter Pringle

The book: Experiment Eleven: Dark Secrets Behind the Discovery of a Wonder Drug (Walker, 2012) by Peter Pringle

The crux: The story of a Rutgers graduate student who discovered the “wonder drug” streptomycin—the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis—only to have his professor and advisor claim credit for the milestone discovery.

The context: At the urging of his family, Albert Schatz fought hard against his accomplished adviser Selman Waksman, who won media attention, royalties, and in 1952 the Nobel Prize for research on farmyard soil bacteria conducted by young Schatz. A shameful and outrageous moment in the history of American science, the affair involved many Establishment spin doctors—including Rutgers’ public relations officers—determined to marginalize and blackball the young student.

Take home: An engaging account of excellent science and flawed human beings.

-Joseph Barbato

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