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Selman Waksman was born on 22 July 1888 to Jewish parents in Nova Pryluka, a peasant village near
Kiev, in the Russian Empire, now . He immigrated to the Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine United States in 1910, shortly after receiving his matriculation diploma from the Fifth Gymnasium in , and became a naturalized American citizen six years later. Odessa, Ukraine
Rutgers College (now ), where he was graduated in 1915 with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Agriculture. He continued his studies at Rutgers University Rutgers, receiving a Master of Science (M.Sc.) 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, from where he was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biochemistry in 1918. Berkeley
Later he joined the faculty at
in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. It was at Rutgers University 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 16 August 1973 and was interred at the
Crowell Cemetery in Woods Hole, . 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", which is a reference to Isaiah 45:8. Barnstable County, Massachusetts