Retired teacher of literature with an interest in religion and in science and in history. I have loved reading for 50 years.
This is the true story of the most important discovery in the history of medicine, and perhaps the most important discovery in the history of man. Prior to the development of anti-bacterial drugs that work INSIDE the body, not just on the surface like antiseptics such as alcohol do, a person with an internal infection was already dead...unless he was one of the few in a million who got lucky. Some scientists believed it possible to create such an internally acting chemical...one that would kill bacteria but not kill the human being infected with the bacteria. Others said such a goal was simply mad.
In labs men of science and medicine laboriously searched for something they were not even sure could possibly exist...and they tried endless examples of chemicals, hundreds of variations...and one day something happened and there was an indication that the dream was not just a fantasy.
Among the fascinating details in this story of world-changing discovery is the tale of the German discovery of an antibacterial agent in the 1930s that saved the life of Winston Churchill in the middle of World War II when Churchill developed a nearly fatal infection. And there is the tale of the scientist sent to prison in Nazi Germany for being "too polite" in refusing a Nobel Prize for his scientific discovery....Hitler had declared that no German would accept a Nobel Prize after a Nobel was awarded to an anti-Nazi peace activist. So when the scientist declined the offer of the Nobel Prize but did so in a letter that the Gestapo thought too polite, the scientist was jailed promptly.
Then there is the tale of the sons of two U.S. presidents....one who died while his dad was president and the other who survived an illness while his dad was president...the two ill sons separated by only a dozen years and by the discovery of effective internal anti-bacterial medicine.
A compelling narrative indeed.
This book might have been too dense to read but I found listening to be enjoyable. I was a bit confused early on by the similar sounding names of the protagonists but continued listening because my hands were messy (I listen in my art studio) and soon the name confusion was a non-issue.
The story is not exactly linear; it jumps between different times and different important figures in the development. I think this aspect of the structure of the story helped make it an interesting listen. It was interesting to start to piece together what was going on in different places. The author allowed the listener to start to make the connections on her own.
I probably finished the book in 2 days.
One of my favorite non-fiction audiobooks. An absolute epic. The description of the book is spot on, if the description piques your interest, the book won't disappoint.
Membre since March 2008.
Top 5 on my list of all time favorite books. If you like history and science this book is for you. Amazing to see how dedicated the men of science are at finding cures for humanity.
Great history in it as well.
Narration is great. Many facts about all the different people in all the different countries working on stopping bacterial infections. Great characterization of all the people. I like how many points are backed up by actual journal entries of the person being talked about.
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.