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

Thomas Goetz. Gotham, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-592-40751-4
Former Wired executive editor Goetz (The Decision Tree) offers an intriguing medical and literary history based on “accidental partners in a profound social shift toward science and away from superstition.” Robert Koch, a meticulous and ambitious German country doctor-turned-scientist, isolated the bacteria causing TB and, Goetz writes, in doing so “offered a template” not only for medical science but for “all scientific investigation.” Physician and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle also viewed “science as a tool,” and Koch’s work in microbiology “provided the template” for Doyle’s fictional detective’s fascination “with minuscule detail.” Though his scientific work remains an important legacy, Koch never achieved the fame he sought in finding a cure for TB. Yet, Goetz notes, “Koch’s science became a kind of remedy nonetheless,” changing the perception of the disease as “something that could be understood and defended against.” Ironically, Doyle, though an admirer of Koch, would ultimately help debunk Koch’s failed theory that an injection of “lymph” could cure TB. But this pair’s fascinating, convergent stories have much more in common, as Goetz aptly demonstrates that both Koch and Doyle were doggedly inquisitive men who discovered that neither germs nor crime are any match for science. Agent: Chris Calhoun. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/13/2014
Release date: 04/03/2014
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-59240-917-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4906-0965-2
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