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Exhibit - Barnett Rosenberg

Barnett Rosenberg was a scholar interested in many areas of science but is best known for his discovery of cisplatin, a platinum compound with anti-cancer properties. The initial discovery occurred in 1965 when Rosenberg and Loretta Van Camp subjected E. coli to an electric field created from electrodes coated with the metal platinum. The electric field caused the E. coli. to grow into long strands instead of dividing normally. Further research by Thomas Krigas and Andrew Thompson led to the understanding that the strands were caused by the use of the platinum on the electrodes. With cancer research in mind, Rosenberg then began research into the effects of the platinum electric fields on various chemicals. He eventually found the ideal compound and called it cisplatin. Rosenberg and the members of his lab then began researching the use of cisplatin on cells in cancerous tumors and in 1968 they confirmed that it could inhibit cancer cells. In 1971 cisplatin was used in clinical trials in humans. The drug cisplatin was approved for use by the FDA in 1978. Later Rosenberg and James Hoeschele began experiments with carboplatin, another platinum compound. It too was also used to treat cancer.

Barnett Rosenberg was born in New York City in 1926. He received his B.S. in physics from Brooklyn College 1948. He then studied at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1949. He received his master’s degree in 1950 at New York University as well as his Ph.D. in 1955. In 1956 he began at Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a senior research physicist. He returned to New York University as a project director of a government contract from 1958-1961.

Rosenberg came to MSU in 1961 with Leroy Augenstein to found the Biophysics Department. Rosenberg stayed at MSU until he retired in 1997. His interest in other areas of research, not related to platinum, inspired him to found the Barros Research Institute in Holt, Michigan in 1982.

Barnett Rosenberg passed away August 8, 2009. He is survived by his wife Ritta Rosenberg and their two children.


Exhibit created by Sarah Roberts with contributions by Whitney Miller and James D. Hoeschele.


Click here to listen to Barnett Rosenberg's Sesquicentennial Oral History Project interview. Interview

University Archives and Historical Collections

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 Bibliography of Barnett Rosenberg Sources
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MSU Archives and Historical Collections
A chart showing the cure rates of leukemia in rats using cisplatin.
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A diagram of a solid state electrolysis apparatus.
A diagram of a solid state electrolysis apparatus.
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Barnett Rosenberg and Loretta Van Camp
Barnett Rosenberg and Loretta Van Camp
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Commencement Address by Barnett Rosenberg, June 1989
Commencement Address by Barnett Rosenberg, June 1989
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Equipment used by Barnett Rosenberg, 1965
Equipment used by Barnett Rosenberg, 1965
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News and Comments Newsletter, January-March 1971
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Portrait of Barnett Rosenberg, 1971
Portrait of Barnett Rosenberg, 1971
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MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Portrait of Loretta Van Camp, 1971.
Portrait of Loretta Van Camp, 1971.
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Testing E. coli, 1965
Testing E. coli, 1965
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MSU Archives and Historical Collections