Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Remedy

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and 
the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis

By Thomas Goetz

Publication date: 2014

Before the Germ Theory was developed in the late 19th century diseases were terrible, misunderstood scourges that doctors could neither treat nor prevent.  German physician Robert Koch was one of the scientists who pioneered the Germ Theory. Using painstaking scientific research methods of his own design Koch first set his sights on anthrax and later cholera, but his greatest triumph was the isolation and identification of the bacteria that caused tuberculosis.  Science is a competitive field and the drive to find a cure can become too much. When Koch announced a remedy for tuberculosis, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle observed the experiments and the results and realized that Koch had missed the mark and wrote a scathing review of Koch’s methods in researching his remedy.  Later, when Doyle left medicine, he used Koch’s principles of painstaking scientific analysis to develop his great detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Science writer Thomas Goetz uses his own painstaking research to tell the story of these pioneers of science.  The links between them are tenuous.  Doyle and Koch never met, but their lives were both profoundly influenced by their need to understand the world in a scientific framework.  Goetz’s narrative switches back and forth from Koch’s story to Doyle’s and occasionally moves backward in time, creating a fascinating look at the history of scientific discovery.

For more great reads about the early years of modern medicine try these:

The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis
By Arthur Allen

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine 
By Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
By Deborah Blum

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – And How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
By Steven Johnson

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President
By Candice Millard

The Doctor’s Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignác Semmelweis
By Sherwin B. Nuland

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