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

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

by Thomas Goetz


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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592407514
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Thomas Goetz is the author of two books. A correspondent at the Atlantic and entrepreneur in residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he holds a master of public health from the University of California, Berkeley and a master in literature from the University of Virginia. The former executive editor of WIRED, he speaks frequently on medicine and science.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Disease ix

Part I

Chapter 1 1871: The Doctor in Wöllstein 3

Chapter 2 1875: The Germ Theory 25

Chapter 3 1878: The Rivalry 53

Chapter 4 1882: The Breakthrough 85

Part II

Chapter 5 1882: The Doctor in Southsea 111

Chapter 6 1887: The Detective 139

Chapter 7 1890: The Remedy 161

Part III

Chapter 8 1891: The Fall of Dr. Koch 189

Chapter 9 1892: The Rise of A. C. Doyle 211

Chapter 10 1900: The New Century 227

Epilogue: The Cure 245

Acknowledgments 257

Notes 261

Index 291

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A thoughtful, patient, ultimately fascinating account of the struggle of 19th century science, and society, to come to grips with the germ theory of illness, and develop new technologies to take on one of humanity’s oldest scourges, tuberculosis."

"A gripping story... with great verve, painting word pictures full of color and telling detail... vividly evokes the rivalries rife in the scientific world."
Washington Times

"An enjoyable chronicle."
The Wall Street Journal

"Immensely pleasurable... a superb narrative...  [Goetz is] a fluid and elegant writer, with a knack for painting the personalities of those involved."
The Lancet

"Weaves the suspense of a Sherlock Holmes mystery into a tale of ambition, obsession, scientific discovery and skepticism at the dawn of modern medicine."
“A thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating journey through several decades of European history and an intimate portrait of two once-obscure doctors who shaped it. It's a book that illustrates how the imagination and the intellect can work in concert to cure a disease, or to delight an audience of millions.”
Los Angeles Times

The Remedy is a highly entertaining, interesting, and thought-provoking book, leaving the reader with a much deeper appreciation of how much safer — and in many ways, predictable — our lives are today thanks to the toil and efforts of men such as Robert Koch and his contemporaries."
Boston Globe

The Remedy achieves a rare feat: serious, accurate scientific writing that is also engaging and entertaining.”
--Shelf Awareness

“Goetz weaves together a compelling narrative, chronicling the struggle to find the causes and cures for some of the most ferocious diseases that have stalked humans (and animals) through time: cholera, smallpox, anthrax and tuberculosis... Perhaps most importantly, The Remedy reminds us of how far we have come, and how much we take for granted in modern medicine.”

"An intriguing medical and literary history… fascinating, convergent stories [of] doggedly inquisitive men who discovered that neither germs nor crime are any match for science."
Publishers Weekly

"A beguiling real-life medical detective story."
Kirkus Reviews
"The Remedy is a rare, thrilling achievement: a book that helps us understand the roots of transformative ideas that simultaneously manages to tell a story worthy of a 19th-century novel, full of surprising links, rivalries, and intellectual triumph."
—Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map  
"In The Remedy, Thomas Goetz offers a wonderfully original origins story for modern science. He weaves together one of the great achievements of the nineteenth century--the germ theory of disease--with the creation of the fictional superhero of science, Sherlock Homes, with grace and surprise."
—Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses and The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution

Customer Reviews