Book Review: The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager

Microscope - Hager

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

My Rating: 4 Stars

I always enjoy reading medical related non-fiction books.  Often times though they can get bogged down in the scientific jargon and lose the general reader.  If you can’t pronounce the words written in the book without looking them up in the dictionary and seeing how you actually say it then you aren’t likely to finish the book unless it’s required reading.  That’s one the great things about this book.  Thomas Hager has done an exceptional job in telling the story of sulfa in a fashion that is sure to thrill, entertain and enlighten everyone who reads this book.

The Demon Under the Microscope is the story of sulfa, the first antibiotic.  Thomas Hager with painstaking detail paints the picture of this historic discovery and how it ultimately led to the Allies winning World War II.  He shows how it was able to conquer diseases that had long plagued the world.  How laws changed because of it and how it brought forth a whole new era of medicine and shaped modern medicine to what it is today.

My Thoughts

This was an absolutely fascinating read.  Who knew that one little discovery could so drastically change the world.  After reading this book, I had a much greater respect for the world I live in.  To not have to be worried about dying from such easily curable diseases because of sulfa is truly amazing.  It’s hard to fathom that a relatively short time ago, things were very different.  I truly feel lucky to live in a world where this seemingly wonder-drug exists.  What was even more astounding is the progress that modern medicine made after the discovery of sulfa.  It ushered in a whole new era for medicine.  Like a rocket being jettisoned into outer space, sulfa pushed the world of medicine forward at a speed never seen before.

Another great thing about this book is that it filled in gaps in my knowledge when watching movies like Band of Brothers and every other WWII war movie.  I had often seen them pouring some kind of powder on wounds but I didn’t really know what it was.  Now I know.  I was almost gleeful when I made this connection.  In addition, I was happily surprised when I recognized the names of scientists, chemists and other researchers that were referenced in this book.   Clearly all my reading of other medical and science related books is starting to pay off.  My knowledge, while by no means expert, is being weaved into a web where I’m able to make connections and see a fuller and clearer picture of medical history than I was previously capable of doing.  It’s truly an empowering feeling.

This was a riveting read and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of medicine.  You will surely find it to be insightful, engrossing and completely riveting.  Thomas Hager’s enthusiasm for the subject is evident in the pages of this great read.  Go check it out.


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