Chapter 5 : The Lone Scientist: The Work on Anthrax

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When Robert Koch had finally built a lucrative medical practice, he started doing research. Koch's first published work on anthrax was so perfect, so detailed, so complete, that it quieted all significant objections to the germ theory of disease. In slightly more than one month, beginning on Christmas Eve, Koch had worked out the whole life cycle of the anthrax bacillus. Much work remained to be done, but the framework of future research was clear. Within weeks, Koch had worked out in great detail the biology of the anthrax bacillus. Davaine and others had shown that animals could obtain anthrax not only from other infected animals but from the soil. All of Koch's experiments were directed to discovering this suspected developmental stage of the anthrax bacillus. Koch's ability to take the giant leap from the life cycle of the anthrax bacillus to the etiology of anthrax undoubtedly depended in part upon this natural history background. The present hygienic measures against anthrax are limited to notification of the authorities, the burial of cadavers, disinfection, and quarantine of the town affected by the plague. Koch's turning point came that night when he saw spores in a slide culture and related them to the etiology of the disease. Koch moved inexorably forward, forging the bacteriological revolution that was to have such major impact on medicine and human society.

Citation: Brock T. 1999. The Lone Scientist: The Work on Anthrax, p 27-37. In Robert Koch. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818272.ch5
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