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Reviewed by Frances Deborah Kerr-Phillips for Readers' Favorite
The Discovery of Germs by John Krieger is a fascinating exploration of humanity’s developing understanding of germs and disease through history. Krieger’s main focus is from 1600 onwards, carefully charting the development of the microscope, the beginnings of the scientific method, and then the gradual understanding of cause and effect by scientists. The pioneers, many of who are household names (such as Pasteur and Lister), required dogged determination in their quest to find answers through meticulous experimentation, as well as the ability to persevere against criticism and a reluctance to change traditional ways of thinking.
John Krieger’s book makes science accessible, interesting, and enjoyable. His style of writing is somewhat conversational, making the reader feel a part of the journey of discovery, both by Krieger’s use of the inclusive “we” and as a result of asking rhetorical questions to make the reader think. I particularly enjoyed his opening sentence as a means to draw one in: “Sickness lurks in filth and slime.” Krieger follows the research and thought processes of the “experimentalists” he discusses, such that the reader can understand the how and why behind the various discoveries. By so doing, he enables the reader to understand the origin of terms that we take for granted today, such as the “scientific method.” I found his explanations of the Latin origin of certain words, such as “malaria”, intriguing. There are simple experiments one can do and illustrations that further bring his topic alive. The Discovery of Germs is a most interesting read!