Paul de Kruif

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Paul Henry De Kruif (March 2, 1890 Zeeland, Michigan - February 28, 1971 Holland, Michigan) was an American microbiologist and author, publishing as Paul de Kruif. He is most noted for his 1926 book, Microbe Hunters. This book was not only a bestseller for a lengthy period after publication, it has remained high on lists of recommended reading for science and has been an inspiration for many aspiring physicians and scientists.

Early life

He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1912 with a B.A and remained to obtain a PhD in 1916. He immediately entered service as a private in Mexico on the Pancho Villa Expedition and afterwards served as a lieutenant and Captain in World War I in France. Because of his service in the Sanitary Corps, he had occasional contact with leading French biologists of the period.

Writing career

After returning to the University of Michigan as an assistant professor, he briefly worked for the Rockefeller Institute. De Kruif then became a full time writer.

De Kruif assisted with the novel Arrowsmith (1925) by Sinclair Lewis, providing the scientific and medical information required by the plot, along with character sketches. Even though Lewis was listed as the sole author, De Kruif's contribution was significant, and he received twenty-five percent of the royalties. Many believe the characters in the novel represent people known to De Kruif, with Martin Arrowsmith (unlike de Kruif, a physician) possibly representing himself.

Some of his writings created problems for him. Some essays written while working for the Rockefeller Institute led to his dismissal. One of the scientists featured in "Microbe Hunters" (Ronald Ross) took exception to how he was described, so the British edition had to delete that chapter to avoid a libel suit.

De Kruif was a staff writer for the Ladies' Home Journal, "Country Gentleman," and the Readers Digest, contributing articles on science and medicine. He also served on commissions to promote research into Infantile Paralysis.

His last book, "The Sweeping Wind," is his autobiography.

Books by Paul de Kruif

  • Our Medicine Men (1922)
  • Microbe Hunters (1926)
  • Hunger Fighters (1928)
  • Men Against Death (1932)
  • Why Keep Them Alive (1937)
  • Seven Iron Men (1937)
  • The Fight for Life (1938)
  • The Male Hormone(1945)
  • Health is Wealth (19??)
  • Life Among Doctors (19??)
  • Kaiser Wakes the Doctors (19??)
  • A Man Against Insanity (1957)
  • The Sweeping Wind (1962)

The Microbe Hunters

De Kruif's celebrated 1926 book Microbe Hunters consists of chapters on the following figures of medicine's "Heroic Age":