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'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.
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
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.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
Surprisingly interesting and oddly competitive and egotistical tale of the men who discovered bacteria, anthrax and the cure for tuberculosis . . . in a time when consumption killed thousands of people and the average life span was 40, and the medical "science" of the day was still using leaches to adjust the body's humors . . . these medical pioneers were outnumbered and thought ridiculous . . . yet they persisted . . . sometimes beyond their own usefulness . . . great listen . . .
Sci-fi, detective, cozy. Only give 5s to those books I think stand above the rest. 4 is a good solid book. 3 is average, nothing special.
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.
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.
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.
The German scientist and the British author cross paths in Berlin -- and thus the premise of the book is born. The premise is rather thin, but the interesting biographies of these two men make up for the author's small sleight of hand to draw us in. We learn of the brilliance and flaws of both men, but most of all about the growing stature of science in society. Everyone who loves reason and logic and the scientific process will revel in this as a coming of age story for all we hold dear. Society's slow embrace of microbiotics and germ theory against the near hysterical love of the Sherlock Holmes character with his use of logic.
The book is rich with facts -- and for this reason not for the squeamish -- because life before modern hygiene was not pretty.
I must warn my feminist sisters that there are no remarkable women in this book -- doting mothers, sacrificing wives, distracting mistresses abound. Female social reformers are seen as misguided or downright obstructionist. Even the nod to Florence Nightingale is somewhat backhanded -- "accidental" right actions for the wrong reasons.
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