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Extended Audio Sample The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctors Heroic Search for the Worlds First Miracle Drug Audiobook, by Thomas Hager Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (883 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Thomas Hager Narrator: Stephen Hoye Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2006 ISBN: 9781400173068
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On the surface, The Demon under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug is the story of Nobel Laureate Gerhard Domagk and his development of antibacterial sulfonamides, usually known as sulfa drugs. Instead of just being a biography of Domagk, however, it is a look at the medical science behind treating bacterial infections. It covers the early days of germ theory and the beginning days of serum medicine. It is also about politics, military history and human compassion. It discusses the atmosphere, both scientifically and politically, in Germany from before the first World War until after the second.

Sulfa drugs may have been discovered by the Nazis, but they were instrumental in the Allied forces winning World War II. As the first antibiotic, sulfa drugs saved soldiers, children and political leaders, among them Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. The drugs changed the way new drugs were discovered or developed, as well as how they were approved and marketed. Sulfonamides literally launched the era of modern medicine.

Before sulfa drugs, scientists, researchers and doctors had no idea that man-made chemicals could possibly cure diseases. Instead, they used natural remedies to treat the symptoms of an illness and hoped it cleared up on its own. With the discovery that sulfonamides could cure bacterial infections, the possibility of eradicating disease suddenly seemed plausible.

Author Thomas Hager has written several books about historical figures in the health sciences. He is also regularly published in a number of popular and professional periodicals on topics related to health and science. Hager's books include Aging Well, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling, Linus Pauling and the Chemistry of Life, Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker, The Demon under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug and The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery that Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler.

Fast-paced, suspenseful, and utterly satisfying, The Demon Under the Microscope is a sweeping history of the discovery of the first antibiotic and its dramatic effect on the world of medicine and beyond. 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 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.-but its real effects are even more far reaching. Sulfa changed the way new drugs were developed, approved and sold; transformed the way doctors treated patients; and 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 the 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. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is a grand story, and Mr. Hager tells it well…One can easily imagine The Demon Under the Microscope, like Microbe Hunters before it, inspiring in young, idealistic readers the enthusiasm for medical research and the zeal for healing that generates great physicians.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Fascinating…A rousing, valuable contribution to the history of medicine.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred)

  • “This yarn prefigures the modern rush for corporate pharma patents; it is testament to Hager’s skills that the inherently unsexy process of finding the chemicals that might help conquer strep is as exciting an account of the hunt for a Russian submarine.”

    Publishers Weekly

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert | 2/13/2014

    " This book combined multiple interests..medicine and history. The author captured the hope and fatalism of the pre-antibiotic era. The development of sulfonamides was a game changer. It altered the practice of medicine at such a fundamental level that we now have a hard time conceiving what things were like in the recent past. The author captures this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pam | 1/22/2014

    " Excellent narration of this story of the history of sulfa drugs and the evolution of antibiotic therapy, the FDA, and big drug companies. Sound boring? It's NOT!! At least not the way the author tells the story. Add in corporate greed and Nazis and the result is a very compelling read (or listen, in my case). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellen Brandt | 1/2/2014

    " Science, History, Biography; what more could you want? The discovery of antibiotics had a profound impact on society. The story is all the more interesting because key players were scientists living in Germany during the World Wars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna | 12/25/2013

    " Very interesting and decent read.. It got kind of boring in parts, and definately wasn't a *can't put it down book* i would read a chapter or two and that was enough or the day. Over all it was a decent book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wonderbunny | 11/29/2013

    " Very fascinating nonfiction book about the discovery and impact of antibiotics. I felt the historical aspects were fascinating and how it has changed things is amazing. I kept thinking about how life must have changed from right before my father was born to now. How scary it could have been to give birth or get any sort of infection in the early part of the 1900's. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa Ard | 11/22/2013

    " Another interesting, "sensational science" read from Thomas Hagel. If you like medicine, Germany, and history, you'll like this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kris Catrine | 11/12/2013

    " Great book about the discovery of antibiotics. I found it fascinating but may not be near as fun for non-science readers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christian | 4/9/2013

    " This is an absolute read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Suzanne | 3/23/2013

    " I love drug discovery stories and this one goes beyond the initial discovery to tell you about what was going on in the world of medicine and how the discovery changed things today. Excellent. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Doris | 12/26/2011

    " Fascinating read of the discovery of source of infections and the drug sulfa, the first antibiotic. Well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judy | 12/23/2011

    " I thought this was a very compelling look at how medicine has changed over time. I found myself especially interested in the history of how battle wounds are treated. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kirsten | 8/5/2011

    " For a History Book this was a very interesting listen/read. Especially since antibiotics and immunizations are under fire. I really enjoyed it and I may actually listen to it again. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anne | 4/30/2011

    " Started a bit slow, what can I say failure is boring, but really picked up once the drug was discovered. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 4/22/2011

    " Another great book from Hager telling the story of science from a historical lens; the sweat and scientific process that went into the search for a medicine to stop infection. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John | 3/1/2011

    " Fascinating. I learned so much from this book about WW2 era history and about medicine. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Angela | 2/27/2011

    " This is actually pretty good so far. I am wary of science writing because it can get dry quickly (sad statement by a former scientist, huh?) but so far this keeps me engaged. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 2/21/2011

    " Wonderful book!
    Real insight to how recently bacterial infections were a death sentence. Similarly, how little has changed in our political machinery. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 1/29/2011

    " Great story. I did not appreciate the importance of sulfa until now. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amie | 1/5/2011

    " The first half and the last chapter were good but the middle ~75 pages were torture and I skimmed them. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori | 10/11/2010

    " I had no idea it all started with dye. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 8/28/2010

    " Another great book from Hager telling the story of science from a historical lens; the sweat and scientific process that went into the search for a medicine to stop infection. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruby | 8/9/2010

    " I'm usually not a big fan of reading books on history, but this author did a really good job at keeping things interesting and the search for sulfa medications. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 5/26/2010

    " I found this book fascinating. The topic is enlivened by side-stories that tie in well and help to illustrate rather than distract. The science (I think) is presented in a way that is clear to anyone but also interesting to scientists. The audio version is enjoyable to listen to. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt | 4/26/2010

    " I spent most of the book trying to figure out who the "One Doctor" is. There's no way this book should have been as entertaining as it was. I'm eagerly awaiting this author and narrator's next collaboration on the history of the garbage disposal. "

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About the Author
Author Thomas Hager

Thomas Hager, veteran science and medical writer, is the author of several books, including Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling, and his work has appeared in publications ranging from Reader’s Digest to Medical Tribune. A former director of the University of Oregon Press, contributing editor to American Health, and correspondent for the Journal of the American Medical Association, he lives in Eugene, Oregon.

About the Narrator

Stephen Hoye has worked as a professional actor in London and Los Angeles for more than thirty years. Trained at Boston University and the Guildhall in London, he has acted in television series and six feature films and has appeared in London’s West End.