Customer Reviews for

The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted August 31, 2011

    The Demons Under The Microscope and In the Laboratory

    Thomas Hager opens Demon Under The Microscope with compelling descriptions of December 7 1941's wounded and those who cared for them. The setting is Tripler General Hospital in Hawaii. Ambulances, trucks, and cars bring the torn, the lacerated, and the roasted to the hospital. When it is filled the lawns of the facility are covered with the injured. The hospital's three operating rooms are in service for nearly a full day. Surprisingly and quite unlike World War One, there is not a single death from infection.

    In the first three chapters, Hager weaves stories of battlefield medicine from before the discovery from the French Revolution to World War One. The science of bacteriology began immediately before and during the First World War in which soldiers living in earthworks and trenches could die and without even be wounded. It was a world without antibiotics. In Germany, Gerhard Domagk and his colleagues at Bayer Corporation worked constantly to identify which microscopic bacteria caused tuberculosis, malaria, and blood poisoning. Discovered in 1932, sulfa became the first of the modern antibiotics.

    Hager addresses the biology and chemistry of the discovery through the competitive personalities, the national environments, and the aggressive international marketplace. Patent wars, lawsuits, dying children of U.S. Presidents, a nearly dead Winston Churchill after the Teheran Conference move the story forward. Research chemists, laboratory mice, and fortunate and unfortunate accidents may be mundane, but not when the Nazi's are looking over shoulders and monitoring research labs. Nazi chieftan Reinhard Heydrich was wounded by Czech assassins and, due to a possible misuse of sulfa, dies. To find out if sulfa was the cause, Ravenbruck concentration camp's laboratory conducts infection and sulfa studies on women prisoners.

    For those who have seen Saving Private Ryan, recall the episode where the medic is wounded in the assault on the Nazi communication post. He wound was dusted with white powder, a sulfa drug. Demon Under the Microscope is a well paced, personality driven suspense story of scientific discovery. There are no photographs in the book; it would have been enhanced by portraits of the main characters. On the other hand, your mind supplies the visuals from Hager's descriptions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2011

    A must read for any bio geek

    Rather than provide a synopsis, I'll simply say that it provides a wonderful backbone from which to construct an understanding on early 20th century Biology and Medicine, as well as the marriage and honeymoon on these two philosophies.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Have a new appreciation for modern medicine

    This is not just a book about science, it is also about history; the history of war, politics, countries, culture, law, and medicine. Although chock full of names, events, and dates, Demon under the Microscope is surprisingly well organized and easy to follow. When I bought this book I thought it was about the discovery penicillin, I was wrong. I did not know anything about the important drug discoveries that took place before the invention of penicillin.

    I learned so much from this book that helped me to better understand current events and drug products: for example, where Bayer Aspirin came from, why the FDA is so careful about testing new drugs, how "Big Pharma" got started, why there are strict guidelines for advertising natural/homeopathic products, the importance of a double blind study, in some cases I learned that "some things never change."

    I highly recommend this book. It is a fascinating story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Sulfa the Miracle Drug

    Thomas Hager story detailing the history of sulfa was intriguing and quite interesting when you contrast modern medicine today and the variety of antibiotics available and used to treat diseases. The advent of sulfa played a significant role in saving lives during WWII, as well as, lives among the wartime civilians. Hager also describes the the development of and formation of the FDA and the importance government oversight has in the manufacture and testing of new drugs. Sulfa at the time was seen as a miracle drug, when you consider the deaths associated with what we refer too today as the common sore throat. It is unfathomable to imagine today, deaths associated with streptococcus, although they do occur or the thought of sinus infection protentially being life threatening as was the case with Roosevelts son.

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