The riveting history of tuberculosis, the world’s most lethal disease, the two men whose lives it tragically intertwined, and the birth of medical science.
In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB - often called consumption - was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB. Koch soon embarked on a remedy - a remedy that would be his undoing.
When Koch announced his cure for consumption, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town doctor in England and sometime writer, went to Berlin to cover the event. Touring the ward of reportedly cured patients, he was horrified. Koch’s “remedy” was either sloppy science or outright fraud.
But to a world desperate for relief, Koch’s remedy wasn’t so easily dismissed. As Europe’s consumptives descended upon Berlin, Koch urgently tried to prove his case. Conan Doyle, meanwhile, returned to England determined to abandon medicine in favor of writing. In particular, he turned to a character inspired by the very scientific methods that Koch had formulated: Sherlock Holmes.
Capturing the moment when mystery and magic began to yield to science, The Remedy chronicles the stunning story of how the germ theory of disease became a true fact, how two men of ambition were emboldened to reach for something more, and how scientific discoveries evolve into social truths.
©2014 Thomas Goetz (P)2014 Recorded Books
Yes. Not only a fascinating story of how a TB cure was finally developed, but also fascinating life histories of the researchers involved in this effort.
A lively, varied intonation makes the material even more interesting.
The dreadful statistics about the number of people stricken by this terrible disease.
I do not agree with the author's reliance upon The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as an
explanation for how science proceeds. One is, of course, free to speculate to their heart's content, but it is the interpretation of relevant data that carries the day. This business about first proposing an overarching paradigm, accepting it as "true," and then carrying out studies to verify the paradigm are, at best, a romantic misinterpretation of science as process. Ultimately, it is the bench scientist that carries the day.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This book is primarily about Robert Koch and his discovery of first Anthrax bacteria and then Tuberculosis. In many ways this is the history of the germ theory and tuberculosis. The middle part of the book is about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle traveled to Berlin to hear Koch present his findings of a cure for tuberculosis. Doyle wrote a newspaper article that exposed the treatment a failure. Goetz pointed out that Doyle’s wife died of TB. The author also covers the battle between Koch and Pasteur, both who won the Noble prize in medicine. Goetz covers the success of hygiene and public education in the control of infectious disease as well as access to clean water and sewage control. The epilogue is about the first success of antibiotics against TB and now the problem of drug resistance TB. It is a reminder that the ancient disease of tuberculosis is still with us and still one of the leading causes of death worldwide. “The Remedy” is well written, well researched, highly entertaining, interesting and thought-provoking book. Donald Corren did a good job narrating the book
I'll start by saying I found several parts of this book quite fascinating. Goetz portrays a vivid picture of the development of the science of medicine in the latter half of the 19th century, especially with regards to the "germ theory". He does this both the perspective of the strictly technical, as well as from a Kuhnian "scientific revolution". The rivalry, often petty, between Koch and Pasteur is also fascinating.
What I have a hard time understanding is why Doyle features so prominently in the discussion. His association with Koch was tangential at best. He tried - and failed - to attend a pivotal lecture given by Koch. To his credit, he wrote a noteworthy account for the Lancet from the notes of someone who *had* attended. That's about it. One could have just as readily included Doc Holliday instead.
Very interesting subject matter. The interrelationships between many of the scientists of that age make for an interesting study. However, this book is a little fragmented and often repetitive. Some of the other historical medical novels I've read are much better reads.
I ignore genre labels. Some of my favorite books are outside my genre comfort zone. Listening to audiobooks is still reading. Not theater.
There are some very interesting side stories and anecdotes in Goetz's book. Especially about Conan Doyle. My love of Sherlock came late in life and I never paid much attention to his creator. That portion of the book made me want to read a full biography about the author.
However, as I read this book it seemed that the author wanted to write biographies about both Koch and Conan Doyle, felt like he didn't have enough for two complete books so he looked for a tenuous thread between the two and tried to use that thread to cobble together one biographical book about two people. And to me, the thread just wasn't sufficient to tie these two stories into one cohesive book. It made the entire book feel false.
Additionally, the title was inaccurate. Koch, who for all of his unpleasant personality traits and poor personal choices, evidently did contribute greatly to the science of medical research, didn't cure tuberculosis. He probably set the cause back several years. And while Conan-Doyle spent a few days in Germany viewing Koch's botched results and his wife died of tuberculosis several years later, he evidently had nothing to do with the "quest to cure tuberculosis."
Most people who achieve greatness in life also fail miserably, at least once. The two go hand in hand. It seems to me that while Koch's ultimate dishonesty has to be considered in any well-rounded evaluation of the man, it pales in comparison to his accomplishments and should not be the centerpiece of a biography.
And Conan Doyle dabbled in medicine while he struggled to be a writer. As soon as he met with success in his writing, he dropped medicine and never looked back. His interest in tuberculosis that prompted his visit to Germany had more to do with writing about the event than it ever had to do with questing to cure tuberculosis.
So, two stories, both with merit, but they were artificially forced together in a single book, and both suffer because of it.
This is one of my favorites of the last year. There was information that Was new to me and the author cleverly put it into time and geographical context.
Koch's self-destructive adherence to some bad scientific theory after enjoying remarkable successes.
No, but it did add to my analysis and consideration of medical treatment and immunization.
Will read another book in this subject area.
This is an intriguing historical account of the discovery and fight against tuberculosis. Included are scientific facts as well as personal life stories.
I chose this book as a nurse who enjoys medical history but not really caring about TB per se. I found this book to be informative and personalized as it crossed over into areas not necessarily involved in tuberculosis but the process of scientific discovery be it intentional or accidental.
The motivation of science is diverse. The competition among scientists and doctors is enlightening and at times humorous. Herein also lives the birth of the Nobel prize. Did you know it was related to someone named Nobel?
I'm not a fan of the Dr. Watson and never really had any experience with him. He was before my time and all I knew was he was some kind of criminal investigator. However, the birth of Dr. Watson within this story was amazing to me! Any fan of Dr. Watson needs to hear the story. You just never know what you'll find in a book about medicine.
If you like germs you'll hear a lot about them in this book. If you like people, you will hear a lot about people, relationships and motivations. If you like Science, mystery and discovery, you'll find that in this book as well.
This was a wonderful and engaging book that examines the evolution of science, medicine, and culture though the lens of TB. Goetz takes what could be dull subject matter and gives real life to the science and people doing it.
My only complaint about it is that I felt that Goetz decided that Koch wasn't a recognizable enough name to sell books, so he tacked on the stories about Doyle and his experiences with TB purely to capitalize on Doyle's fame. Doyle's "relationship" to Koch is tangential and not really important to the overall story. While Goetz does use Doyle to examine the culture of the time, the book would do just as well without the inclusion of Doyle. He didn't have any thing to do with the subject except that he wrote one article about Koch's "cure" and later his wife became ill with TB (but given it's prevalence at the time that hardly makes Doyle unique). That being said the bits about Doyle were an interesting distraction from the main topic and while they didn't add anything substantial to the overall story they didn't necessarily detract from it either.
Overall, a very worthwhile book!
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
I was looking for another "Demon Under the Microscope," or "The Ghost Map" and I initially thought I found it... lots of good information about early germ theory and the Koch versus Pasteur battles for discovery. Reader was good, flow of information was interesting right up until the story of TB is rudely interrupted by the birth of the Sherlock Holmes stories... the rubber band holding the two men's lives together was way overstretched. The end of the book finally gets back on point and eventually the work on TB resumes. It was worth my time to listen, but go for the above books or "Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lack' or "Emperor of all Maladies" first.
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