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The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis | [Thomas Goetz]

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

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

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  •  
    William R. Toddmancillas Chico, California United States 08-03-14
    William R. Toddmancillas Chico, California United States 08-03-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History plus."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Remedy?

    Many.


    What does Donald Corren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A lively, varied intonation makes the material even more interesting.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The dreadful statistics about the number of people stricken by this terrible disease.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    29 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 07-06-14
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 07-06-14 Member Since 2015

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "thought-provoking"

    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

    35 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel Langenfeld 02-10-15 Member Since 2005
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    "The Curious Case of the Surgical Supernumerary"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Farrell 11-28-14
    Farrell 11-28-14
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    "Interesting"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Redding Reader USA 04-23-14
    Redding Reader USA 04-23-14 Member Since 2005
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    "Thoroughly engaging"
    Where does The Remedy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Remedy?

    Koch's self-destructive adherence to some bad scientific theory after enjoying remarkable successes.


    What does Donald Corren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Forward flow


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No, but it did add to my analysis and consideration of medical treatment and immunization.


    Any additional comments?

    Will read another book in this subject area.

    20 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lulu 03-29-15
    Lulu 03-29-15

    I ignore genre labels. Some of my favorite books are outside my genre comfort zone. Listening to audiobooks is still reading. Not theater.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Awkward Marriage & Misleading Title"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PLCC 02-24-15
    PLCC 02-24-15
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    ", Informative, fun, easy read"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph 05-20-15
    Joseph 05-20-15
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    "Riveting - Medicine and Science"

    The story of TB and the players involved in late 1800 reveals another snippet of medicine , discovery and science . Very well written and narrated beautifully, I am happy to add this book to my list of historic medical discoveries . I especially enjoyed the portion about AC Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes saga. Now there is even more to listen too

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Edwards 05-17-15
    M. Edwards 05-17-15
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    "Scientific Method Deserted in Pursuit of Glory"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes


    What did you like best about this story?

    Yes


    What about Donald Corren’s performance did you like?

    Excellent


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    I found THE REMEDY to be a fully engaging and attention-riveting story. It revolves around two small town doctors. The first, Robert Koch, hailed from Germany. He developed an historically unprecedented precision with regard to scientific detail and testing procedure, going on to discover the bacteria that caused tuberculosis. "Consumption", as it was then called, was the world's number one killer, responsible for about 1/3 of the world's deaths. Unfortunately, a few years later, Koch announced that he had found "the remedy". In actual fact, he had only fallen victim to his own hubris and desire for fame, recognition, and glory. His reputation took a great hit from which he never fully recovered.

    The second medical doctor, Arthur Conan Doyle, hailed from England and aspired to be a writer. One day he abruptly left England for Berlin to cover the announcement of Koch's so-called remedy. Like Koch in his early years, Doyle displayed meticulous and uncanny attention to scientific detail in his writing for the general public, especially in his world famous Sherlock Holmes stories, which remain popular to this day. Ironically, however, late in life the inventor of Holmes turned to decidedly unscientific beliefs and practices related to spirit-ism, which the public tended to ignore since they were still so in love with Holmes.

    In the epilogue, the author notes some recent medical developments since the days of Koch and Doyle. One which particularly interests me is the relationship between TMAO (google it if llike me you missed the news in 2013) and heart disease. Having enjoyed this book so fully, I'm inspired to move on later this year to several other medical and scientific discovery books which are on my list, as well as at least one or two Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which, surprisingly,I've never gotten around to reading before.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Blake Conrad 05-13-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Fascinating Period of History"
    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I walked away thinking we've come so far from the days of rampant TB and complete ignorance of germs, but in a few years people will look back at today's medicine and think we were so primitive!


    Any additional comments?

    The material was interesting and the writer did a great job presenting the information! I appreciated the way he expertly weaved the stories together, giving a multifaceted picture of this time in history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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