cover image Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine

Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine

William Rosen. Viking, $28 (310p) ISBN 978-0-525-42810-7

Former publisher and editor Rosen (The Third Horseman) tackles a dazzling chapter of modern medical history in this chronicle of the discoveries that opened the age of antibiotics and gave humankind its first effective tool to fight back in an “eons-long war” with infectious disease. It was a breathtaking leap of innovation. Rosen deftly recounts the early work of such pioneers as Louis Pasteur, who established the germ theory; Robert Koch, who linked a microorganism to a single disease; Paul Ehrlich, producer of the world’s first synthetic chemotherapeutic agent; Gerhard Domagk, whose lab found the first successful antibacterial drug; and Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin. Rosen posits that 19th- and 20th-century scientists’ most enduring contributions might have been institutional, in the forms of biological laboratory development and massive corporate funding from such giants as Merck, Pfizer, and Squibb that fueled the revolution in medicine. “Every triumphal discovery” in the dawning age of antibiotics, Rosen eloquently notes, “has been followed, sometimes in a matter of months, by a reminder that the enemy in this particular war may lose individual battles, but that the war against it is essentially eternal.” Rosen’s thoughtful, scholarly, and engaging history is a powerful testament to this fight. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (May)