It’s Monday again (how does this keep happening?!) The good news? You don’t have tuberculosis. (I hope.) Yes, folks, I just finished reading some of the germiest non-fiction this side of the 20th century, and it was fascinating. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I was offered a copy of The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz, I knew I had to give it a shot. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Honesty rules.
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis begins with Dr. Robert Koch hacking off limbs during the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Koch, among others, began to realize that some of the post-surgical infections they’d been encountering could be prevented… You know. If the medical staff washed their hands. Germ theory was fledgling and had plenty of detractors who still insisted on sticking leeches to people to balance their humors. Gross, right?
You know what else everybody did that was super gross? Spit all over the place. Back in the day, hawking loogies in public was a fact of life. People were just barely starting to understand germ theory (thanks to scientists like Koch and his frenemy Pasteur) so nobody thought about spreading disease with all the spitting. It was the perfect environment for the breeding and transmission of one of humanity’s oldest foes, Tuberculosis.
TB was no joke. It accounted for something like a third of all deaths, and nobody could quite pin down how it was transmitted or how to treat it. Dr. Koch’s research into Tuberculosis allowed him to identify the microbe that caused TB, which was a huge breakthrough. Shortly after this discovery, Koch claimed to have discovered a cure. A CURE FOR CONSUMPTION! A miracle!
Enter Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. You may know him as “Sir” and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but Conan Doyle was first a doctor. He was fascinated by germ theory and Dr. Koch’s experiments. Dr. Conan Doyle made the trek to Berlin to observe Koch’s work, but came away troubled. Was this “remedy” indeed curing Tuberculosis, or was it little more than snake oil?
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis was an enjoyable read. I learned all sorts of gross medical details and scientific tidbits. I never realized just how widespread TB had been, or how recently the medical field was revolutionized by germ theory. Very interesting stuff. For me there was a slight drawback, though. Because this book was so chock full of science and factoids and microscopes, it took me quite a bit longer to read than my typical fictional fare. I think it was just a lot more to absorb for my atrophied brain. In any case, it was a good read, ESPECIALLY if scientific non-fiction is your thing.
Tell me Bookworms… Do any of you find you read non-fiction more slowly than fiction?