Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure TuberculosisBook - 2014
During the surge of the deadliest and cruellest disease in history comes the unexpected encounter of two great men- one a pioneer of modern science, the other a pioneer of modern literature. In The Remedy , Thomas Goetz chronicles the riveting story of Robert Koch, a provincial doctor turned revolutionary scientist whose kitchen-sink discoveries inspired a new age of medicine - and ultimately aroused the interest and then the suspicion of another ambitious doctor, Arthur Conan Doyle.
The account begins in 1875, when a diagnosis of tuberculosis or consumption, was a death sentence. Doctors had little in their arsenal for treating this cunning disease and were even less certain about what caused it. But a scientific revolution was brewing. Koch, armed with but a microscope and a notebook, began to methodically pursue these things called 'germs'. His biggest discovery - one that would push medicine out of the dark ages - was of the bacteria that caused tuberculosis. After the accolades and honors, Koch set his sights on a greater glory- not just to identify the cause but to create a cure.
And then, he had it. When Koch announced his remedy for tuberculosis in 1890, euphoria swept the globe. Physician and aspiring writer Arthur Conan Doyle joined the throngs racing to Berlin for the public demonstration. But amid the frenzy over Koch's remedy, Conan Doyle quietly toured the wards of treated patients. He was staggered by what he found- Koch's remedy was either sloppy science or outright fraud.
Conan Doyle has no choice but to accuse one of the world's greatest scientists of an unfathomable error. The question was this- Whom would the world believe?
The Remedy , is a stunning tale of ambition and hubris, of discovery and deceit. It chronicles the profound shift in medical science from the nineteenth century of cod-liver oil and leeches to the twentieth century of microscopes and antibiotics. And it vividly explores how modern medicine emerges, not as the inevitable march of progress but as a lurching tumult of failed experiments and petty rivalries.
In a brilliant interweaving of scientific and literary history, Goetz vividly shows that Koch and Conan Doyle shared more than a chance meeting- they were collaborators in the new age of medicine. What Koch proved in his laboratory Conan Doyle brought to the world through his literature - especially through his new scientific detective, Sherlock Holmes. As The Remedy makes clear, without Robert Koch, Sherlock Holmes would never have existed.