Born this day in 1910: Gladys Hobby (1910–1993), microbiologist and clinical researcher instrumental in the industrial development of penicillin and streptomycin.
Gladys Hobby, a native of New York City, earned a B.A. from Vassar College in 1931, a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1932, and a PhD in bacteriology from that same institution in 1935.
Between 1934 and 1943 Hobby teamed up with biochemist Karl Meyer and clinician Martin Henry Dawson to carry out research on infections diseases at the Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. The team obtained a sample of the penicillin mold from from Alexander Fleming, who discovered it in 1928. They hoped to find a way to use it in humans.
Hobby and her team perfected the fermentation process needed to produce penicillin in quantity and were the first to perform human trials. They felt an urgent need to get the new drug to market in order to treat soldiers wounded in World War II. In 1941 they proved the drug’s effectiveness in treating a variety of infectious diseases. With U.S. entry into the war, the government became heavily interested in funding the development of the new drug.
Hobby joined the pharmaceutical company Pfizer (which was the first company to commercially produce penicillin) in 1944. There she developed streptomycin and other important drugs. In 1959 she become chief of research at the East Orange Veteran's Administration. She was also a clinical instructor and assistant professor of public health at Cornell University Medical School. She founded the monthly journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 1972, serving as its editor for nearly a decade. After “retiring” in 1977 she became a consultant and authored hundreds of popular and academic science articles.
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