In 1882, Robert Koch discovered the TB bacillus, signaling a redirection of medical thinking from the trial and error guesswork of individual experience toward medical care based upon science. Professor Ellison uses the career of Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915), a recognized leader in the American crusade against tuberculosis, to examine the development of medical science as a human process.
Ellison asks how the germ theory influenced the thinking of physicians like Trudeau; how it affected the sanitorium treatment of patients, and even the development of laboratory studies. During Trudeau’s lifetime, physicians confronted a killer disease with contradictory knowledge that was largely empirical, based on their clinical experience. Koch’s discovery of the cause of tuberculosis raised the hope that a cure was within easy reach. But, in the end, a cure eluded Trudeau. Despite this, he adopted a method of caring for patients in the early stages of tuberculosis, he legitimated that system to the public, and he defended it before his fellow physicians. Trudeau’s story has lessons for the way society looks at medicine specifically and all sciences in general. As such, this book will be of great interest to historians of medicine and science.