Chapter 34 : Women Microbiologists at Rutgers in the Early Golden Age of Antibiotics

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Streptomycin was discovered at Rutgers University by a graduate student named Albert Schatz, working in the laboratory of Selman Waksman. This golden age of antibiotic discovery unfolded against the backdrop of World War II and opened new doors for women in microbiology, who welcomed the opportunity to use their intellects, participate in the war effort, and experience the thrill of scientific discovery. Elizabeth Horning initiated the direct plate screening method used by Schatz, replacing a prior, slow enrichment protocol. Doris Jones provided one of the first streptomycin-producing strains and then performed the first animal trials, illustrating the nontoxic nature of streptomycin in chicks. Elizabeth Bugie (later Gregory) confirmed the antimicrobial activity of streptomycin and was coauthor on the first published paper about it. Her name was left off the patent because Waksman predicted she would “just get married.” Christine Reilly developed quick screening methods for the isolation of antibiotic-producing strains and demonstrated the first case of streptomycin resistance. Dorris Hutchison advanced our understanding of streptomycin’s effect on the tubercle bacillus. Vivian Schatz backed her husband, Albert, in his quixotic battle for appropriate recognition. Overall, women in the Waksman laboratory made substantial intellectual contributions, conducted independent research, provided technical and scholarly input to ongoing projects, and were intimately concerned at every level of the research. These women merit greater recognition for their key contributions in the development of the world’s antibiotics.

Citation: Eveleigh D, Bennett J. 2018. Women Microbiologists at Rutgers in the Early Golden Age of Antibiotics, p 317-329. In Whitaker R, Barton H (ed), Women in Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555819545.ch34
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Figure 1

The Rutgers Microbiology Department, New Jersey College of Agriculture and Experiment Station, 1946. Top Row (L to R): Donald B. Johnstone (gs), Aldrage B. Cooper (lab tech), Dr. Merritt C. Fernald (asst. res. specialist), Lloyd R. Frederick (gs). Second Row (L to R): John D. Schenone (res. assoc.), Christine R. Frazier (lab asst.), Dorothy G. Smith (gs), Doris I. Jones (gs), [not recorded?], Kenneth L. Temple (gs). Third Row (L to R): John Q. Adams (lab asst.), Vivian Gerber (gs), Viola A. Battista (secretary), Dorothy Nycz (secretary), Clara H. Wark (lab asst.), Claire B. Landers (gs). Fourth and Fifth Rows (L to R): Donald M. Reynolds (gs), Dr. Robert Starkey, Doris W. Wilson (gs), Dr. Selman Waksman, Dorothy J. Randolph (lab asst.), Dr. Walton B. Geiger (assoc. biochemist), H. Christine Reilly (gs). gs, graduate student. Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Citation: Eveleigh D, Bennett J. 2018. Women Microbiologists at Rutgers in the Early Golden Age of Antibiotics, p 317-329. In Whitaker R, Barton H (ed), Women in Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555819545.ch34
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