In Search of the Animalcule by Steven L. Berk, M.D.

In Search of the Animalcule by Steven L. Berk, M.D.
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When he is born in 1847 Vienna, Jacob Pfleger shares just two days with his mother, a female obstetrician who dies, like thousands of other women around the world, of the mysterious childbed fever. Because his birth father wants nothing to do with him, Jacob is placed in an orphanage. His mother’s dying wish is that he will grow up with resilience and independence.

As Jacob matures into a precocious twelve-year-old, he is told about the legacy of his mother by her colleague, Ignaz Semmelweis, and learns that his father is a winemaker in Lille, France. Determined to find his father and his destiny, Jacob embarks on a quest to locate him. When he arrives in France, Jacob is introduced to Louis Pasteur who is working with is father to determine why the wines of France are spoiling. As he is led on an intense scientific journey, Jacob eventually also works with Joseph Lister and Robert Koch, participating in the great discoveries of the era that uncover the animalcules, the bacteria, that have caused global disease and death. Later Jacob studies to become a doctor under the mentorship of Sir William Osler at Johns Hopkins.

In this amazing story that captures the real lives and work of the great scientists of the time, an orphan assists in shocking discoveries that change the worlds understanding of disease and uncovers the field of infectious disease.

To read an entertaining and engaging account of what is probably the most important medical breakthrough of the nineteenth century—germ theory—this book should not be missed! It is seen through the eyes of the highly likeable orphan boy, Jacob, whose mother died birthing him at the hands of doctors who didn’t wash their hands. Jacob’s mother was a doctor who believed that germs, or rather, animalcules, were responsible for many deaths. This sets young Jacob on a life-long course to discover more and save lives, but first, he must find the father he never met.

Jacob starts off on an adventure and runs away from the orphan home in a quest from Vienna to France to find his father, a vineyard worker. What comes next is a tale of danger, showing what a brave boy Jacob is. He heads out on foot with little food.

Over the course of the story, he runs into interesting people, both fictional and real. The characterization is done with excellence, and readers are treated to wonderful inside views of doctors and scientists who made history: Pasteur, Lister, and others. The author of this story is not only a doctor who understands the medical aspects involved but knows how to write these concepts in a way that laypeople can understand and enjoy.

Jacob’s interaction as he lives and works with those who have dedicated their lives to unfolding the mysteries of germ theory is not only charming but also enlightening. Readers will learn things, which is a bonus to being entertained. They will see what it was like to be a researcher in an era without modern equipment.

The author doesn’t forget the women who were involved and includes their important contributions. Jacob’s relationships are at times motivating and at others heartbreaking.

Setting in this story is done in a way to bring in even more realism and put readers there with a sense of time and place.

This is a fascinating account that is sure to touch readers’ hearts and inspire their minds. It is worth the read!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.