The Demon Under The Microscope

  • by Thomas Hager
  • Narrated by Stephen Hoye
  • 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Nazis discovered it. The Allies won the war with it. It conquered diseases, changed laws, and single-handedly launched the era of antibiotics. This incredible discovery was sulfa, the first antibiotic medication. In The Demon Under the Microscope, Thomas Hager chronicles the dramatic history of the drug that shaped modern medicine. Sulfa saved millions of lives, among them, Winston Churchill's and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.'s, but its real effects have been even more far reaching. Sulfa changed the way new drugs were developed, approved, and sold. It transformed the way doctors treated patients. And it ushered in the era of modern medicine. The very concept that chemicals created in a lab could cure disease revolutionized medicine, taking it from the treatment of symptoms and discomfort to the eradication of the root cause of illness.
A strange and vibrant story, The Demon Under the Microscope illuminates the colorful characters, corporate strategy, individual idealism, careful planning, lucky breaks, cynicism, heroism, greed, hard work, and central (though mistaken) idea that brought sulfa to the world. This is a fascinating scientific tale with all the excitement and intrigue of a great suspense novel.

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What the Critics Say

"Highly entertaining." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Book!!!!!

OK. This purports to be the story of the development of sulfa drugs. Boring, you say? That's what I thought. I purchased it on the strengths of the other reviews. And, glad I did. This is the most intriguing and interesting story I've read this year. Extremely well told and narrated.

It is actually the history of the treatment (or lack thereof) of bacterial infections over the years. I'll bet you didn't know Calvin Coolidge had a son who died because a blister on his foot got infected? Or that Doctors used phenols to treat a minor medical procedure on Queen Victoria? Or that the Nazis prevented the most brilliant scientists of their time from getting a Nobel prize?

At times I got a bit confused when the author backed up to explain some historical or preceding event. I rather think that had more to do with the fact that this is an audio book and you need to pay careful attention.

Overall, though, I really must give this story my highest ratings and would recommend it to the layman and scientist alike.
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- Stanley

A pleasure in listening

It is a great pleasure to read a science author who knows both how to write and understands the subject. Thomas Hager is one such author. His manages to take both well know discoveries and little know episodes and weave them together into a story that is informative and entertaining. His descriptive writing is excellent, a rare talent in a writer who understands science.

The first part of the book does some jumping back and forth in time mostly to great effect as he reacquaints us with the discovery of the germ theory and early serum medicine. (Although I found that every once in a while he gives away the punch line before he tells the story.)

The second half of the book gives a fascinating and unique glimpse into Germany from before WWI to after WWII when the discovery of the magic bullet sulfa revolutionized the foundations of modern medicine.

If you, like me, enjoy both history and science, this is an exciting story that is well worth reading or listening.

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- John Mertus "Radical Skeptic"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-27-2006
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio