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History of Medicine: Paul Ehrlich and tuberculosis

Technical Details

Original Title: Dr. Ehrlich´s Magic Bullet

Country: USA.

Year: 1940.

Director: William Dieterle.

Music: Max Steiner.

Photography: James Wong Howe.

Film Editor: Warren Low.

Screenplay: Norman Burnstine (as Norman Burnside), Heinz Herald and John Huston.

Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Gordon, Otto Kruger, Donald Crisp, Maria Oupenskaya, Montagu Love, Sig Rumann, Donald Meek, Henr O'Neill, Albert Bassermann, Edward Norris, Harry Davenport, Louis Calhern, Louis Jean Heydt and Charles Halton.

Colour: Black-and-white.

Runtime: 103 minutes.

Genre: Biographical, Drama and Medical.

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Synopsis: Biopic about Paul Ehrlich from his time in Berlin.

Awards: Nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Screenplay (1941).


José Elías García Sánchez1, Enrique García Sánchez1, María Lucila Merino Marcos2

1Departamento de Medicina Preventiva, Salud Pública y Microbiología Médica. Facultad de Medicina. Universidad de Salamanca (Spain). 2Departamento de Pediatría del Hospital Universitario de Salamanca (España).

Correspondence: José Elías García Sánchez. Facultad de Medicina. Avda. Alfonso X El Sabio s/n. 37007 Salamanca (Spain).

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Setting: from 1882 to 1915 (Berlin, Egypt and Frankfurt).American Poster (One Sheet).

Ehrlich attends the conference where Dr Robert Koch reports the discovery of the aetiology of tuberculosis.

He tells Koch that he can develop a good way of staining his bacillus and Koch provides him with a culture.

Some time later, at home, coughing and freezing with the cold he attempts to stain the bacillus.

Through his wife’s carelessness on turning on a stove on which there were some preparations, he manages to stain Koch’s bacillus (fiction)...

...proving its acid resistance.

He shows his discovery to Koch, who in his excitement offers him a job.

During the celebration, while dancing with his wife he faints. He suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis caused by his work with the bacillus.

Ehrlich and his wife travel to Egypt so that he can recover from tuberculosis with the help of the climate, rest and healthy eating habits.

The film does not include Ehrlich’s work with tuberculin, entrusted to him by Koch, but it does include his discovery of the magic bullet.