I am in the process of reading The Demon Under the Microscope (listening to, actually–I like to listen to audiobooks while I knit) by Thomas Hager. I saw a couple reviews of the book on scienceblogs and, being interested in science history, I decided to give it a shot.
I don’t have time to do a thoughtful, detailed analysis of the book (besides, I’m only 2/3 of the way through it), but I will say that there is plenty in it to enjoy for a cell biologist with an interest in history. The book details the discovery of sulfadrugs in the early 20th century, but to tell this story, the author dips into the discovery of microscopes and micro-organisms, the appalling conditions in the field hospitals during WWI, development of sterile surgical technique, and a whole host of things that ultimately led to the discovery of these drugs. The focus is both on how scientists went about looking for a cure for infectious disease and about what drove those scientists to look for a cure in the first place. Right now, I’m listening to the birth of pharmaceutical companies which arose from German dye manufacturers of all things.
Having never looked into the history of this subject, I can’t speak to how accurate the information in the book is. But it is a compelling read and if you have an interest in science history, worth your time.