Guillaume Belanger's Reviews > Bechamp or Pasteur?: A Lost Chapter in the History of Biology

Bechamp or Pasteur? by E. Douglas Hume
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A classic in the history of medicine and biology because it seems to be one of the only highly historically accurate written account of an incredibly critical period in medical history that has, as the title indicates, been completely lost. That this is obviously the case is evident in the fact that almost everyone knows of Louis Pasteur (at the very least through the common usage of the word pasteurisation), but hardly anyone has even heard of Antoine Bechamp, the two people about whom this book is.

Douglas Hume's purpose in this book written in 1922 is to demonstrate, (and I think he succeeds), on the one hand, that Louis Pasteur was not only always was a mediocre scientist, but that he was dishonest and unethical in more ways than one, not just a few times but throughout his career. And in addition, that he has left us with a legacy of erroneous beliefs about health and disease that have served the pharmaceutical and medical industry incredibly well in developing such a lucrative and powerful business the world over, but us---the people, animals and plant of this world---in a very poor state. And on the other hand, Hume wants to show how Antoine Bechamp was a remarkable individual in many respects, and especially as a uniquely insightful, methodical, diligent and tireless scientist that discovered many things of such a fundamental nature in relation to our understanding not only of biology and the relationships between living microscopic organisms, but of the constituents of life itself, that it is hard to fathom the facts and their implications even now.

In practice, this is carried out by a detailed and rather tedious examination of the historical records, mostly in published articles or statements made at the French academy of sciences in the middle part of the nineteenth century (1820's to 1880's). There are a lot of citations and long quotes. A lot of details of who did what and who wrote what to this person or that person, as this time and at that time. The topics and themes that are addressed are not grouped in a logical order or presented according to their importance and relevance to medicine. It is often hard to follow because of the quotes and citations, but also because of the large number of details that in retrospect seem mostly irrelevant or at least secondary. Nonetheless, it is very revealing, historically accurate given that it is based on written primary source documents of the period, and thus a powerful eye opener into the roots of our unquestioned beliefs and understandings of health, disease and life at the microscopic scale.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 1, 2012 – Finished Reading
August 8, 2015 – Shelved

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