One July day in 1984, Barry Marshall, a medical resident at the Fremantle Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, walked over to his lab bench, pulled down a beaker, and mixed a cocktail. The key ingredient: about a billion Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Marshall hoped to show that the microorganism causes ulcers. He gulped the concoction, describing it as "swamp water."

Barry Marshall PHYSICIAN, STUDY THYSELF: Barry Marshall's daring experiment eventually garnered him awards.

One hundred years earlier, Max von Pettenkofer, a chemist in Munich, Germany, performed a similar experiment. Von Pettenkofer was eager to prove the recently identified Vibrio cholerae bacterium could not, on its own, cause cholera. His cocktail ingredients: bouillon and the deadly cholerae. He, too, gulped his potion.

Marshall was correct. He suffered an inflamed stomach. Von Pettenkofer was incorrect. He was fortunate to survive. Both researchers risked their health-and, perhaps, their lives-to prove a scientific point. And...

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