• Home page of novelist William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • About author William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Books by novelist William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Reviews of the writing of author William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Blog of author William (Bill) S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Contact author William S. Frankl, M.D.
Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Robert Koch

It was a remarkable day. On March 24, 1882, a German doctor and early microbiologist, Robert Koch, announced that he had found the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis.

Historically, tuberculosis has been one of the world’s most dangerous diseases. At the time of Koch’s discovery, one in seven people died of it. For many years, tuberculosis was believed to be an inherited condition. Koch, however, strongly believed that it was a contagious illness spread by a pathogen. Koch’s previous work had already identified the bacteria responsible for cholera and anthrax poisoning, respectively. This work had also led him to create four “postulates” of criteria for linking a specific bacterium to an infectious disease.

Koch worked on guinea pigs to fulfill his four postulates and eventually isolated the cause of tuberculosis as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. He delivered his results to a crowd of scientists in a lecture hall. He brought his entire laboratory to the room to replicate his method on the spot, and the room was left stunned by his work. At the end, there were no questions; instead, the scientists lined up to see the bacteria for themselves through the microscope. Paul Erlich, a future Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, called the lecture “the most important experience of my scientific life.”

Koch himself was awarded the Nobel Prize, in Physiology or Medicine, in 1905 for his work with tuberculosis. Today, thanks to antibiotic treatment, the disease’s death rate hovers at a much smaller 4 percent.

 

Leave a Reply


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved