I loved this amazing book. It vividly describes the difficulties, the frustrations and the serendipity that often precede a major scientific discovery. It brings to life the dedication of medical doctors that work tirelessly (often for decades!) to find ways of curing the awful diseases that plague us. And it makes me ever so grateful to live in the age of antibiotics!
Who would have guessed it was possible to build a fascinating history around chemical labs and medical pathologists? This book does all that and more. It added to my admiration and respect for my grandmothers (and their forebears) who faced the risk, among others, of mortal and incurable diseases every time they entered a hospital to deliver a baby. It made me realize how much we take for granted in modern medicine: the antibiotics that have erased the worries about pneumonia, TB, strep and other infections that were a life and death struggle as recently as the 1930's.
The book fully explains the scientific history behind the discovery of the sulfa drugs by researchers at the Bayer firm in Germany. That took years of dedication and financial support, as well as some lucky hunches. The account keeps its interest by blending in personal stories of people who were cured by the new drugs (e.g., Franklin Roosevelt, Jr.) or otherwise impacted by them (e.g., the head of a "patent medicine" firm in Kentucky that quickly put out an elixir containing the drug that turned out to be poisonous).
On first approach you wouldn't think that the history of the discovery of sulfa could be fascinating, but this book is absorbing, it is history at its best. You know how history has to be felt? How history should not be something we think about only at an intellectual level, but, something we experience at an emotional level? That's what this book allows us to do. And the great thing is it is not melodramatic, it is wonderfully done. I warmly recommend it.
The reader is also great, he is now up there with Simon Vance and Stephen Briggs in my list.
I have to say that I don't usually read non-fiction, but the book was on sale and the reviews were good and I was not disappointed one bit. Way to go Audible! =)
I bought this book during Audible's summer $5.95 sale (I guess "sales" do work!) and was unexpectedly drawn into this far-ranging history of the discovery and development of sulfa drugs. The author does a terrific job of providing details about the personal lives of the characters so that they're three dimensional, and descriptions of the social/politic environment so that their scientific work is placed in a historical context. I would have given it five stars except that I really disliked the reader -- his overly-dramatic reading actually detracted from the book. I especially disliked how he draws out the final word of each sentence into a falling cadence, changing the final syllable of the final word into two syllables. (Sorry, can't describe it more exactly.) End result is that he continually sounds patronizing and bored.
One of my all time favorite books. The author has masterfully humanized history with out taking liberties with the facts. The author makes complex concepts in science absolutly accessible to everyone and makes a story that will interest those who have little interest in biology and medicine. The narration is wonderful.
This fascinating book had a tendency to put me to sleep, thanks to the rather droning tone of the reader. It was worth sticking with it for the impressive and moving story of the discovery of the very first antibiotic - sulfa.
Although the story is fascinating and I learned much about our history, it is very difficult to follow the plot through all the scientists and chemical formulations. This is emphasized because it is all prose and no dialogue. Still, if you can stay with it, it is worth the education.
Written expertly and read with great energy, this audiobook is a fascinating retelling of the stories of genius, of caring, and of cunning in what was truly the genesis of modern medical practice.
The book is well written, easily listened to, and the author did his research in an amazingly succinct, humane, and understandable fashion. Learn while you enjoy - how great is that!
Fantastic advances in medical treatment were a product of brilliant minds, tirelss dedication, twisted politics, cultural shifts, and happy accidents. Who knew? Everything we take for granted was both mindbogglingly simple and a long labor.