Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Long Before Sherlock
September 15, 2018
Few ever knew his curious mind investigated another kind of mystery: tuberculosis.
There is actually a site on the internet called: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia. I landed on it quite by accident, but once there, I got an eyeful. One section alone is about his travels, a chronology, complete with maps. These travels helped fuel some of his writing, no doubt, or his writing made him curious about the places. One of his earlier trips had nothing to do with writing at all—he was on the scent of another kind of mystery.
In November of 1890, Arthur ventured to Berlin to investigate Robert Koch’s research on tuberculosis. Herman Heinrich Robert Koch was an esteemed physician and microbiologist and considered the founder of modern microbiology. In his laboratories, he had discovered the causes of tuberculosis, anthrax, and cholera.
He created a postulate of four points that became the gold standard for linking microorganisms with the disease. Koch received a Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine. The Robert Koch Institute is named for him.
At medical congress in1890, Koch gave a lecture in which he announced that he had a promising theory for curing tuberculosis. In fact, he had some patients already in a kind of remission. The ingredient was found in the lymph of afflicted patients.
A general practitioner of tender years in Southsea, England read the accounts of hope for a cure. He later said that he had no idea why he did it but he dropped what he was doing and went to check it out. He had to go across the English Channel, then over the terrain to a university where Koch’s colleague was lecturing and demonstrating the techniques.
The tickets were all used up, so the English GP decided to try to crash a lecture Koch was making. The barge-in methods were not working. The young doctor made gaffe after gaffe in trying to attend one of the lectures and observe the patients and study the mystery of tuberculosis.
When he finally met success, he pored over all the data and examined the progress of the patients. His heart sank. He realized that the conclusions were premature. The studies had not gone on long enough. Though there was no longer any trace of the tuberculosis germ, within standard examinations, it was still hiding in the deep tissues. This was later proven by relapses and further testing.
Robert Koch was in no way a fake. He was highly respected and his contributions will live on in the medical books.
In this instance a country fellow, Arthur Conan Doyle, physician and future author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries was correct. He made his way back to Seaside with a heavy heart. The evidence of a true remedy was not valid. Wishing for something to be true did not make it so—this, as human beings, we have had to learn over and over again.
Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.