By Paul de Kruif

During this vintage bestseller, Paul de Kruif dramatizes the pioneering bacteriological paintings of such scientists as Leeuwenhoek, Spallanzani, Koch, Pasteur, Reed, and Ehrlich. This 70th anniversary version incorporates a new advent through F. Gonzalez-Crussi. Index.

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Sample text

Bigo, a distiller of alcohol from sugar beets, came to his laboratory in distress. "We're having trouble with our fermentations, Professor," he complained; "we're losing thousands of francs every day. " said the good Bigo. Bigo's son was a student in the science course and Pasteur hastened to oblige. He went to the distillery and sniffed at the vats that were sick, that wouldn't make alcohol; he fished up some samples of the grayish slimy mess and put them in bottles to take to his laboratory— and he didn't fail to take some of the beet pulp from the healthy foamy vats where good amounts of alcohol were being made.

Would they grow? That night he turned over and over in his bed. He whispered his hopes and fears to Madame Pasteur—she couldn't advise him but she comforted him. She understood everything but couldn't explain away his worries. She was his perfect assistant. . He was back in his attic next morning not knowing how he had got up the stairs, not remembering his breakfast—he might have floated from his bed directly to the rickety dusty incubator that held his flask—that fatal flask. He opened the bottle and put a tiny cloudy drop from it between two thin bits of glass and slid the specimen under the lens of his microscope—and knew the world was his.

But you can't reach in with your hands and take one animalcule by the tail—curse it—it is a million times too small for that. Then this Spallanzani, this fellow who reveled in gaudy celebrations and vast enthusiastic lecturings, this hero of the crowd, this magnifico, crawled away from all his triumphs and pleasures to do one of the cleverest and most marvelously ingenious pieces of patient work in his hectic life. He did no less a thing than to invent a sure method of getting one animalcule—a few twenty-five thousandths of an inch long—a living animalcule, off by itself.

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