Sinclair Lewis – Arrowsmith

Last modified: February 9, 2018

Martin Arrowsmith studies medicine in the twenties of the last century, but gets hooked to doing lab research. His role model and mentor is the German exile bacteriologist Max Gottlieb, from whom he learns the trade of rigorous experimentation. Martin gets less interested in becoming a physician and criticises medicine to be largely unscientific. His dilemma is that he wants to marry and has to face the fact that doctors earn much more than scientists.

Arrowsmith becomes a country physician and develops a passion for public health. He fails in both – mainly because he lacks the necessary political skills – and becomes a pathologist. He still does some scientific research and switches to being a fulltime scientist when Gottlieb offers the option. Martin almost is the first to descibe bacteriophages, but a French colleague publishes first. Then the plague strikes in the Caribean. Martin struggles with the conflict of interest between compassionate care and rigorous experimentation. His wife Leora dies from the plague and our hero falls apart. Martin gets more isolated and ends up as a weird scientist in the woods of Vermont.

Available at

NRIN devotes a great deal of attention to the website’s content and would greatly appreciate your suggestions of documents or links you believe to belong on this website.

This selection is an incomplete convenience sample, and does not reflect NRIN’s vision or opinion. Including an item does not necessarily mean that we agree with the authors nor does it imply we think unmentioned items are of poorer quality.

Please report any suggestions, inaccuracies or nonfunctioning hyperlinks etc. that you discover. Thanks in advance!