Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Not the band Aerosmith, but the book Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis that was a best seller in 1925. In fact Lewis was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for this novel, but he turned it down. Lewis was assisted in writing the book with the help of a real bacteriologist that he had befriended, Dr. Paul L. DeKruif . The science references and discussion in the book are accurate.

The story is about the life of a doctor whose goal is to become a bacteriologist. He devotes his entire life to the study of microorganisms in the hope to erradicate disease. Through his journey we learn that not much has changed in the medicine and pharmacuedical business from the past Century.

A couple of paragraphs in this book stood out as being prophetic. To think this book was published in 1925.

The paragraphs are the thoughts of Martin Arrowsmith's microbiology professor and mentor, Dr. Max Gottlieb.

He reflected (it was an international debate in which he was joined by a few and damned by many) that half a dozen generations nearly free from epidemics would produce a race so low in natural immunity that when a great plague, suddenly springing from almost-zero to aworld-smothering cloud, appeared again, it might wipe out the worldentire, so that the measures to save lives to which he lent his genius might in the end be the destruction of all human life.

He meditated that if science and public hygiene did removetuberculosis and the other major plagues, the world was grimly certain to become so overcrowded, to become such a universal slave-packed shambles, that all beauty and ease and wisdom would disappear in a famine-driven scamper for existence. Yet these speculations never checked his work. If the future became overcrowded, the future must by birth-control or otherwise look to itself.

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