Streptomyces and Antibiotics

David Gottlieb, a University of Illinois plant pathologist,

created an antibiotic out of strands of streptomyces (soil bacterium), in the late 1940s. The antibiotic was then refined into Chloramphenicol, useful for the treatment of serious bacterial infections, most common in the eyes and ears, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye). Gottlieb’s innovation saves a myriad of lives. It is known today as one of the most important antibiotics of the “Golden Age of Antibiotics.”

Man sitting at table with scientific instruments and petri dishes
David Gottlieb, University professor of plant pathology, conducts a study in Room 6 of the Horticulture Field Laboratory. Photo courtesy University of Illinois Archives.

  • Chemistry Annex – where David Gottlieb isolated a strain of streptomyces to produce a lifesaving antibiotic. There is a historical marker on the north side of the building.

 David Gottlieb (3). (1950s). David Gottlieb Papers, 1940-1982. Found in RS: 8/13/22, Box 2, Folder Photographs of Laboratory, 1959-63.  University of Illinois Archives Urbana-Champaign

National Health Service. (2018, Dec 6).  Chloramphenicol.  NHS.

University of Illinois Public Affairs. (n.d.). Historical Markers.

Contributors: Claudia Krok