Having worked in and around the medical profession for years, my understanding of its evolution was dramatically increased after listening to this book. I found the book spellbinding and very novel-like in its presentation. It is always fulfilling when a book provides a high level of entertainment and knowledge at the same time. I have already recommended it to friends, both inside and out of the medical community.
I read and listen to lots of non-fiction books. I have never written a review. I am compelled to write this one because this book did not seem to get as much attention as it, in my opinion, deserves. It combined my interests in science, history and biography really really well. I loved the desciptions of the science - what it takes to make a scientific breakthrough. I loved following the characters - from scientists, to doctors to politicians and their families. Discovery of first antibiotics played much more important role in the history of the 20th century than I imagined. Again, a great listen.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
In their zeal to promote a book, publishers have a tendency to sensationalize and exaggerate. Sometimes, they just do not get the facts correct. The publisher summary of Demon Under the Microscope begins with “The Nazis discovered it.” The Nazis did not discover sulfa drugs nor did the Allies win the war with it. My god, the summary writer must not have even read this book because it does not communicate that at all. A German scientist and his team discovered sulfa drugs and not all Germans were Nazis. Gerhard Johannes Paul Domagk received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery, the first drug effective against bacterial infections. He was forced by the Nazi regime to refuse the prize and was actually arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo. The book does not suggest Domagk was a Nazi sympathizer, on the contrary.
That aside, this was an excellent book. As has been the case in the past, as a biologist, it is difficult for me to know whether a book like this would appeal to the masses. At times it is a bit scientifically detailed. Having worked in research, I think that the book does an outstanding job of portraying the very sometimes tedious work that can go into such an endeavor. The book does not just state that it took years to accomplish something, it takes you through the years, step by step by agonizing step. Not as much agonizing for the reader but the reader definitely gets a sense of the agony of the researcher.
The book is well researched and narrated. It is fraught with sidebars about disease and its treatment throughout history as well as what was happening in other parts of the world contemporarily. If disease and its treatment or the process of research is your interest, I would highly recommend this book.
I suspected this would be an interesting work, but was totally unprepared for how shockingly interesting it turned out to be. Having worked in the medical field, I knew of Sulfa only as the poorer cousin of penicillin, and wondered what might be so interesting about the story behind its discovery that would merit an entire book on the topic. Now I know. there are a great many lessons to be considered and internalized in this story. An outstanding work.
Fantasy and Romance Author
I bought this book on impulse, during one of Audible's sales, and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a compelling mix of medical history, scientific detective work, politics, industrial espionage, and two world wars. Like other readers, I listened to this book while commuting, and it made the time stuck in traffic pass very quickly. The accounts of illness and treatments before antibiotics were very sobering (and the WWI injury, infection, and mortality rates were horrifyingly unbelievable), and the author draws vivid portraits of the researchers and politicians involved in the saga to cure bacterial infections. I didn't know much about the history of sulfa drugs, nor that they were considered miracle medicines, and this book was a real eye-opener.
The narrator has a clear, pleasant voice, reminiscent of a newscaster, and does a pretty good job with the many German names and terms (I only noticed one badly-mispronounced German word). Definitely worth a credit if you're interested in a CSI-style history book!
The subject and story are engrossing, but it was hard to listen to this narrator's overly dramatic inflections and his misproununciations. I gave up half way through.
Wow, I really enjoyed this book. I knew next to nothing about the subject: like many of my generation, I assumed penicillin was the first real antibiotic. This book dispels that myth and provides an amazing perspective on what life was like in the pre-antibiotic world. It is hard to imagine a time when a foot blister could cause the death of the president's son, but there are many alive now who were children at that time. The author is a good story teller who ties the narrative in with cultural history--I thought the role the sulfa drugs played in the formation of the modern FDA was particularly interesting. Well worth the listen.
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.
I know next to nothing about medicine, biology and chemistry. You'd think the topic of this book would be toruously boring to read about, but no! The writing is wonderful and I was fascinated all the way through. The reader was good too. It's a very engaging story with interesting characters and intrigue, well told.