Summary and Analysis Chapter XXIX



After six weeks of intensive work with the X Principle, Martin learns that the Director of the Institute knows of the unusual results. McGurk summons the young scientist, congratulates him, and offers to create a Department of Microbic Pathology with Martin at the head. The yearly salary is to be ten thousand dollars. Both McGurk and Holabird wish to share Martin's success with him. He is urged to publish his results immediately but demurs and stalls for time to accumulate further proof. Leora is impressed with the prospect of more money and a higher standard of living and for once encourages her husband to accept the terms that are offered him. They are extravagantly entertained by Capitola McGurk at one of her dinners, where the honored guest is the sister of a countess and where Martin has to listen to chitchat that bores him intensely.

Bad news is in the offing, however. Next morning, Gottlieb breaks the news that D'Hérelle, of the Pasteur Institute, has just published a report identical with that of Martin's X Principle, called "bacteriophage." At first, Martin is upset and disappointed, but after he realizes that he will not have to be a department head and publish reports before he is ready, he is consoled. He will try to corroborate the findings of the Frenchman and will rename the X Principle phage. Again he will be free to work in his laboratory without fanfare. If Leora is disappointed, she keeps her feelings to herself — mostly.


The transitory quality of fame and fortune is emphasized in this chapter. This time, Martin is cheated out of the credit for his amazing discovery, not by Tubbs and Holabird, who would force him to share the credit with them, but by a high-type rival scientist who had announced his findings just a little too early. Martin greatly admires D'Hérelle's report and is free from jealousy of a scientist greater than himself. With his solitary and retiring disposition, he is somewhat relieved that he can now go back to his laboratory in peace, although he is sorry for Leora's disappointment.