Discovering the Discovery and the Grandfather Who Saved Millions

Latest Cut: Screened at Haverford College on May 2, 2013

On October 27, 2012, we had a delightful preview screening of my forthcoming feature-length documentary, Discovering the Discovery and the Grandfather Who Saved Millions, at Haverford College. My documentary is about the life and legacy of my grandfather, Albert Schatz (1920-2005), who discovered streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis.

The program included a showing of my previous ten-minute documentary, Discovering Albert (Best Coursework Film Award, Tri-Co Film Festival, Bryn Mawr Film Institute, May, 2012), preview clips of my feature-length film, and a panel discussion. On the panel, I was joined by:

  • Peter Pringle, investigative journalist and author of Experiment Eleven (2012), the first book-length account of the discovery of streptomycin.
  • Vicky Funari, award-winning documentary filmmaker and Visiting Instructor at Haverford College.
  • Zein Nakhoda, Sociology & Anthropology Major and Film & Media Studies Minor at Swarthmore College, who has helped me shoot and edit this film.

Watch the clips I previewed at Haverford College

To watch Discovering Albert, my previous film which I also showed at the October 27 event, click here.

More about the project

My grandfather, Albert Schatz, was a 23-year-old graduate student at Rutgers University in 1943 when he discovered streptomycin. Streptomycin not only cured tuberculosis, but was a treatment for tularemia, the black plague, as well as other gram-negative infectious diseases for which there was no cure.  Following my grandfather’s discovery, his research advisor, Selman Waksman, stole the credit and won the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for Albert’s work.

I spent the summer of 2012 producing a feature-length documentary that explores my grandfather’s story.  I wanted to document personal memories of a man who made such an important gift to humanity.  I spent much time with my grandfather when I was growing up and knew that my grandfather made a huge personal impact on so many people’s lives – not just by discovering streptomycin, but by being the warm, loving, and funny person he was. I wanted to record some of these important memories and share them through the medium of film.

Together with Swarthmore College senior Zein Nakhoda and recent Haverford College graduate Larry Miller, I travelled through New Jersey, New York and New England for eight days, filming interviews with people who knew and admired my grandfather and with people who had researched his story.  Among those I interviewed was Peter Berger, former park ranger at the Vermont campground where my grandparents went camping every summer for twenty years.  I also interviewed Peter Pringle, author of Experiment Eleven, the first book-length account that documents Albert’s life and his discovery of streptomycin.  To read my account of our eight-day interview tour, click here.

Last spring, I took Vicky Funari’s Documentary Video Production course at Haverford College, during which two classmates and I produced Discovering Albert, a ten-minute documentary about my grandfather.  For this endeavor, we interviewed family members, friends, and those who worked with Albert.  Discovering Albert was selected for inclusion in the Tri-Co (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges) Film Festival and won the Best Coursework Film Award when it was shown at the festival, which was held at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute in Bryn Mawr, PA on May 2, 2012.

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