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Chapter 22 : An Assessment of Koch and His Work
Robert Koch was one of the most influential and dedicated medical researchers of the nineteenth century. It can almost be said that Koch created the field of bacteriology. Koch's influence on medical microbiology can be most effectively demonstrated by reference to the table which summarizes the fruits of Koch's concepts and methods. It is still inconceivable that it took Koch only nine months to detect, isolate, and characterize the tubercle bacillus. The slow-growing tubercle bacillus presented numerous experimental difficulties, which Koch overcame in masterful fashion. The two discoveries, the tubercle bacillus and the comma bacillus, coming so quickly one after the other, established Koch's reputation for all time. A Koch myth developed: the great Koch could do no wrong. Advances in food and water bacteriology were built on the foundations which Koch laid. Koch postulated: The suspected pathogen must he constantly present when the disease is present can only be fulfilled by means of microscopic pathology. It was left to others, much later, to explain the Koch phenomenon (as it was called) and assess its significance for infection and immunity. Koch's story can be an inspiration to all who are fascinated by the interplay of science and medicine. In Koch's day, bacteriology was just such an off-beat field. It has been said that science continually opens up new fields to view. Many new fields, whatever they may be, await the coming generations of Robert Kochs!