Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Demon under the Microscope (Review)

Foremost, I would like to give credit and thanks to for this recommendation based on my previously-read books. The Demon under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for The World's First Miracle Drug by Thomas Hager was sitting in a library so near to my lab that I never notice it until I went to search for it, and the content just got better and better.

This book described the discovery of antibacterial antibiotic, sulfanilamide and later commercialized Prontonsils. Most of the story depiction was written around Gerhard Domagk from his experience in WWI to working in Bayer's company. Besides that, bits and pieces of life of several others were described in the book, because this road of discovery was not, in the end, a one-man-show. 

Gerhard Domagk
Eventually, the journey even span across the globe. It started from Germany, then France, then the United Kingdom, then United States, and evetually, back to everyone. At some point, it was time for WWII and readers would be entertained by how the big companies which started with this discovery came down with its government policy, whether by will or by force. IG Farben, for example, was involved in the manufacturing of Zyklon B and even known for the discovery of Sarin. Many of the management level officers of this company were put on trial during Nuremberg's. 

This book was quite fair in describing each of the character involved, be it those who would end up helping the Nazis or end up standing up against. We saw the long toil paid by each on this discovery, from understanding how infection worked, to what caused it, to what stopped it and even longer time till someone finally understand why it worked. Not just that, it showed on the road of commercializing a certain products too, which involved not only research work but many other factors. This case study involved also ethical issues and the transformation of drug trials.

In the end, by the time Nobel prize was awarded for this discovery, this drug was long past the history with the appearance of penicillin. It showed us how Science work, the reality of life.

However, all the work was not in vain, in my opinion. All these were part of the progress and sometimes you wouldn't arrive at the later part if you did not go through the middle part, which many would deem redundant. Never underestimate even the slightest detail.

In total, this is a very entertaining read in my personal opinion. I enjoyed each and every part of the book, even though my heart did ache for the long journey it took to finally found the drug.

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