May 24, 2017

Princeton Resident’s “Miracle Cure” Has Roots in Library’s Second Floor

According to his wife Jeanine, “a large chunk” of her late husband William Rosen’s Miracle Cure (Viking $28) was written “on the old second floor” of the Princeton Public Library. Subtitled The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine, the book’s heroic backstory is touched on in the acknowledgments, where the author writes, “Shortly after I began researching what would become Miracle Cure, I was diagnosed with a rare and highly aggressive form of cancer. After thanking the doctors and nurses who ‘literally kept me alive long enough to complete Miracle Cure,’ Mr. Rosen, who died in April 2016, notes that it’s “perhaps, a little ironic that a book that documents the birth of the modern pharmaceutical firm should have been so dependent on the products of its maturity.”

According to a review of Miracle Cure in Nature, “William Rosen delivers reams of science at a thrilleresque pace. The experimentalists — Gerhard Domagk and Howard Florey among them — are vividly portrayed, as are the patients cured, the pharmaceutical corporations created and the moment in 1943 when bacteriologist Mary Hunt found the ancestor of all penicillin used today, on a mouldy melon.”

A starred review in Publishers Weekly comments, “Former publisher and editor Rosen tackles a dazzling chapter of modern medical history in this chronicle of the discoveries that opened the age of antibiotics and gave humankind its first effective tool to fight back in an ‘eons-long war’ with infectious disease …. Rosen’s thoughtful, scholarly, and engaging history is a powerful testament to this fight.”

The author of The Third Horseman, Justinian’s Flea, and The Most Powerful Idea in the World, William Rosen was an editor and a publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the Free Press for nearly 25 years. As noted in the Acknowledgments, the thoughts of his wife Jeanine and children Alex, Emma, and Quillan “have informed Miracle Cure.”