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July 5, 1985

Paul Ehrlich: Scientist for Life

Author Affiliations

College of Physicians and Surgeons Columbia University New York


by Ernst Bäumler (Grant Edwards, trans), 288 pp, with illus, $39.50, New York 10003 (30 Irving PI), Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, 1984.

JAMA. 1985;254(1):121. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360010131041

It indeed is a pleasure to read the life of Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich, the founder of chemotherapy in the early 1900s, just before World War I, set out its principles and set goals for the medicinal chemist and the chemotherapist that remain even today. Indeed, the theories set forth by Ehrlich of selective drug action have been little improved on in the last 70 some years. It is intriguing that this man, who wrote at a time when there was no exact knowledge of chemoreceptors, of poisoning of biochemical systems, or even of the precise nature of microorganisms, could have so clearly understood the principles that we use today to define in chemical terms specific chemoreceptors and the molecular reactions by which chemotherapeutic agents destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

Baumler's biography of Ehrlich begins in a classic manner, reviewing for us the family life, early education, and research of