Gladys Lounsbury Hobby

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Gladys Lounsbury Hobby (November 19, 1910 – July 4, 1993), born in New York City, was an American microbiologist whose research played a key role in development and understanding of antibiotics. Her work took penicillin from a laboratory experiment to a mass-produced drug during World War II.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Hobby was born in the Washington Heights neighbourhood in New York City, one of two daughters of Theodore Y. Hobby and Flora R. Lounsbury.[2] Hobby graduated from Vassar College in 1931. She earned her master's and Ph.D. in bacteriology from Columbia University. Her doctoral thesis was on the medical uses of nonpathogenic organisms.[2]

Hobby worked for Presbyterian Hospital and the Columbia Medical School from 1934 to 1943, during which time she collaborated with Dr. Karl Friedrich Meyer, a biochemist, and Dr. Martin Henry Dawson, a clinician and associate professor of medicine, on refining penicillin.[1][3] Hobby left Columbia University in 1944 to work for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in New York where she researched streptomycin and other antibiotics.[4]

In 1959, Hobby left Pfizer to specialized in chronic infectious diseases as chief of research at the Veterans Administration Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey. She also served as an assistant clinical research professor in public health at Cornell University Medical College.[1] In 1972 she founded the monthly publication, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, and continued to edit it for eight years. She retired from her main career in 1977. In retirement Hobby wrote over 200 articles, working as a consultant and freelance science writer. She also published a book, Penicillin: Meeting the Challenge,[5] in 1985.

Hobby died of a heart attack in 1993.[1]

Key Contributions and Impact[edit]

Hobby is recognized for her work in creating a form of penicillin that was effective in humans. In 1940, Hobby and her colleagues, Dr. Karl Friedrich Meyer and Dr. Martin Henry Dawson, wrote to Howard Florey and Ernest Boris Chain to procure a sample of penicillin. They naively decided to make some penicillin and soon became experts in the fermentation process, and began refining it into a drug. Hobby, Meyer, and Dawson performed the first tests of penicillin on humans in 1940 and 1941, before presenting at the American Society for Clinical Investigation.[3] Their findings received media coverage, which helped attract funding from the United States Government to mass-produce penicillin during World War II.[4]


  • Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (Editor), Journal (1972 - 1980)
  • Primary Drug Resistance - Continuing Study of Drug Resistance in a Veteran Population within the United States, American Review of Respiratory Diseases 110, No. 1 (1974)
  • Penicillin: Meeting the Challenge, Yale University Press (1985)


  1. ^ a b c d Saxon, Wolfgang (July 9, 1993). "Gladys Hobby, 82, Pioneer in Bringing Penicillin to Public". New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Ware, Susan (2004). Notable American Women - A Biographical Dictionary: Completing the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01488-X. 
  3. ^ a b "The Miracle Cure". Vassar College. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Gladys Hobby (1910-1993)". National Women's History Museum. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  5. ^ Hobby, Gladys (1985). Penicillin: Meeting the Challenge. Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300032253.