Document Preview
  • Full Text
  • Scholarly Journal

Ethical issues yesterday and today: three cases spread over nearly half a century demonstrate how persistently questions of ethics arise and illuminate the principles underlying them

Full text preview

Ethical problems have always been with us. But something that is ethical is not necessarily right, or at least not right in all places and at all times. To illustrate, I will draw on three cases in which I personally have been involved. Two are not totally dissimilar to the Freeman affair, in that they involved basically gut political issues. The third, with which I will begin, had to do with authorship and the order of authorship.

In 1953 I was appointed librarian and editor at a brand - new Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University - so brand - new that the building hadn't yet been finished when I began. In the years that followed that building came to be known as the House that Streptomycin Built, because it and the operating funds for what became a world - famous research institute were supplied by royalties from the antibiotic. Streptomycin had been discovered in 1944 by Selman Waksman, who later became the first director of the Institute of Microbiology.

After receiving millions, the university decided that it should reward Dr Waksman and give him a share of the royalties personally. Quite a lot of money was involved. But Dr Waksman had had co - authors on the paper that announced the discovery of the new wonder drug in I 944. The order in which they were listed was Albert Shatz, Elizabeth Bugie, and Selman A. Waksman. The question soon became: 'Why should the third author get rich and the first two get not a dime?' Shatz decided to hire a lawyer and sue Rutgers.

The case was settled out of court some years before I arrived at the institute. Shatz and Bugie both became fairly rich. I am one of the few people who have had a chance to look...