This book is both a pat on the back for science's unprecedented 20th-century achievements and a caveat against complacency: the microbes are always with us, adaptable and opportunistic. The author, a physician who has worked with penicillin, bacterial resistance, and the immunological aspects of infectious agents, reviews the stories of the white plague (tuberculosis), pneumonias, diphtheria, and other scourges which were once the leading causes of death. He concentrates on the historical and factual rather than the personal, but his writing is graced with literary references, lie makes a point of the importance of public health departments, which before the antibiotic era were held in considerably more respect than they are today. Dowling is also very good in discussing the meaning of morbidity and mortality statistics and the necessity--and recency--of properly controlled clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs. There is much good information here, arranged disease-by-disease or therapy-by-therapy. In addition there are lovely reader-pleasing tidbits such as the answers to what is scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck) and what ever happened to Typhoid Mary: she kept on starting new cases so they kept her in a hospital for 23 years until she died.